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Heirloom Tomatoes are Red Hot

 

Fresh summer tomatoes are absolutely delicious, especially if they're the result of heirloom seeds

In summer, tomato prices come down and they're an easy pick from the produce section. Because they are so easy to grow, however, why not do it yourself? The heirloom varieties are staging a rise in popularity and growers are paying attention. Even if you don't have a regional supplier of these plants, you can find plenty there that will ship to you. Always discuss which varieties will be best for your area.

The term "heirloom" refers to a species that must have at least a 50-year growing history (many go back to the 1800s and some even earlier). They're often deemed heirloom if they produce abundant fruits, are known to resist disease, and have outstanding taste. More important to this designation, however, is the fact that the seeds and plants have been pollinated naturally (birds and bees) and are not cultivated in the same way as hybrids.

Restaurants and specialty markets receive the bulk of commercially grown heirlooms. But more and more individuals are showing interest in growing them. They do well in gardens and containers, should still be treated as tomatoes with regard to tender loving care, and anyone can enjoy the many varieties that will suit their favorite recipes.

A few names to look for: Big Zebra, Garden Peach (with a similar skin texture), Brandywine, Green Grape (sweet and cherry-tomato sized), and the Yellow Pear.

In case you need a quick refresher on growing tomatoes, here are a few tips.

Many smaller tomato species can be planted later than the larger types. They're convenient container plants and can be relocated as needed for adequate sunlight and temperatures.

Fall tomatoes can be planted the last week in June and first week in July. These are more heat-tolerant through the August heat.

Spider mites love tomatoes. Plan a spraying program to defend your plants.

Add heavier mulch during the heat of summer. Water accordingly and don't leave the tomatoes to fend for themselves while you're on vacation.

Wait until the first fruits appear before fertilizing. Easy on the nitrogen content, but the roots may benefit from a little extra magnesium.

Whether you choose heirlooms or the regular hybrids, don't miss out on the spectacular taste of a homegrown tomato.

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