What is the difference between a Hybrid and an Heirloom tomato?
Hybrid tomatoes are what we all have purchased in our supermarkets, they are bred for long term storage, to be less susceptible to diseases, to be perfect in appearance but are less flavoursome. If you save the seeds to replant you cannot be certain that your seed will grow true to type. The hybrid is a combination on many varieties bred to give all the attributes listed above.
An heirloom tomato is an older-style tomato variety which can be susceptible to diseases, cannot be stored long term, may or may not be perfect in appearance but will have the most wonderfully intense tomato flavour. An heirloom tomato seed should always grow true to type.
There are many seed suppliers who specialise in heirloom tomato seeds in Australia, Diggers Club, Eden Seeds, Seed Freaks, Boondie Seeds are just a few. There are many others around the world who are dedicated to saving heirloom seeds so that these varieties are not lost to future generations.
After a lot of investigation and trial and error in growing, we discovered a book called "TOMATO" written by Penny Woodward, Janice Sutton and Karen Sutherland, it has become our tomato bible.
One of the great things that is included in the book is a list of Heirloom varieties and all their attributes, colour, size, flavour, uses etc. After a couple of years planting different varieties, we have settled on our selection which we use for our preserves.
Each of the past few seasons have brought with it different challenges. Extremely wet summers, causing fungal infections, excessive heat causing wilt and poor germination, drought and bushfires or as we experienced in 2020/21 almost no summer with the whole season being spring like in its temperatures and above average rainfall.
Then our friends the insects and birds cause their own problems, caterpillar infestations are a big problem for tomatoes. In tough seasons the native birds such as King Parrots, Crimson Rosellas and Currawongs, find tomatoes a great alternate food source.
The "TOMATO" publication gives great assistance with the types of diseases which affect tomatoes, also eco-friendly alternatives to chemicals, such as chilli and garlic spray to combat caterpillars. Really when you get right down to it, tomatoes can be quite the Goldilocks, liking everything just at the right temperature, not to cold and not to hot, not too much water, or too little, but just the right amount.
It is all worth it when you get a tomato harvest like we have had this year, which has been exceptional. We never get everything right, we make mistakes every year, but normally different ones! In the end we get a harvest like this that makes it all worthwhile.