When you think heirloom, you think antique–and, in a way, that's what these babies are. They're tomatoes that come from an original family line that dates back many years. The perfectly shaped red tomatoes you pick up at your local supermarket are actually hybrids, made by crossing two or more types of tomatoes. This crossbreeding makes them disease resistant and hardier, but it also causes them to look and taste pretty much the same (which is often on the bland side). Heirlooms are left alone and can be all different colors and sizes–and each type has its own distinct flavor. "Heirloom tomatoes have character that store-bought tomatoes don't have," says Ethne Clarke, editor-in-chief of Organic Gardening. Search out colorful varieties at your local farmers' market or grow your own. Clarke recommends buying seeds from an online heirloom seed group such as seedsavers.org or buying an heirloom tomato seedling.
Four vintage beauties to try:
Auld Sod: One of Clarke’s favorites; a firm, tart cherry-red mini plum tomato
Green Giant: A juicy yellowish-green beefsteak tomato with rich flavor and a soft but meaty texture
Black Prince: A soft, medium-size tomato with burnt-orange and olive-green skin and purplish flesh
White Currant: Tiny, light-yellow tomatoes that are firm and juicy