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Tomato Varieties: Heirloom vs Hybrid (Part I)

Tomato Varieties: Heirloom vs Hybrid (Part I)

Posted by Grange Co-op on 23rd May 2020

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Tomato plants are a bountiful addition to your home garden, but with a plethora of varieties available, choosing which to purchase can be overwhelming. There are thousands of tomato varieties in existence, and Grange Co-op carries a wide selection. If you are interested in learning more about tomatoes and the varieties available to you, Grange Co-op’s very own Gardening Expert, Kraig Rucker, explains key information on choosing the right tomato to meet your gardening needs here! Reference the video included, or keep reading, as we highlight some favorites, diving into differentiating colors and flavors, giving you the confidence and knowledge to grow the perfect tomato.

There is a long list of advantages to home grown food, but tomatoes especially are advantageous to growing yourself. Most tomato plants available in Grange Co-op nurseries are varieties you would not find in the grocery store produce section. Commercially available produce is hybridized – often for longevity of shelf life and durability. Resultingly, flavor is not given the highest priority.

Heirloom versus Hybrid

The distinguishing differences between heirloom varieties versus hybrids are their seeds. Heirloom tomato seeds can be passed down from season to season, from one farmer to another. This process allows for certain desirable traits such as juiciness, size, shape, or color to be passed down. An heirloom tomato is also open-pollinated. Meaning, they are pollinated naturally, by birds, insects, wind, or human hands. Below we highlight tomatoes in our nurseries that are of the heirloom variety.


Grange Co-op does not carry or sell any genetically modified tomato plants in our stores. You never need to worry about whether a tomato plant at Grange Co-op was genetically modified or not.

Heirloom Favorites

Black KrimIndeterminate. This medium-sized, very dark maroon beefsteak, with wonderfully rich flavor, originated in Crimea, a peninsula in the Black Sea with perfect "tomato summers".

Yellow Grape Cherry Tomato Indeterminate. This petit, glossy and thin-skinned tomato is known for its low acidity in comparison to its red counterparts. Crack resistant and mild, sweet flavor makes it a wonderful snacking tomato.

San MarzanoIndeterminate. This teardrop-shaped, meaty, plum-type tomato is famous for its sweet, complex flavor. It is a great heirloom replacement to the hybrid Roma. Choose San Marzano tomatoes if you like to can whole tomatoes, whip up homemade tomato sauce, or freeze slow-roasted tomatoes. These tomatoes also taste great chopped into salads and sliced onto sandwiches.

Bonnie BestIndeterminate. This classic heirloom tomato is great for fresh eating but was originally used as the staple variety for making ketchup! Rich in flavor and acidic for a delicious and prolonged canning shelf life.

Arkansas Traveler - Indeterminate. As the name suggests, this tomato originated from the state of Arkansas, where it was bred at the University of Arkansas. This pink tomato has a mild flavor, is medium-sized, resistant to cracking and will continue to fruit even in drought and extremely hot weather.

SungoldIndeterminate. These distinctive, extremely sweet fruits are best eaten fresh off the vine or in salads and party trays. One of the most popular varieties of cherry tomatoes, Sungold ripens early to a golden orange, and stay firmer longer than other cherry varieties.

ManatobaDeterminate. This bush variety is a perfect container-friendly heirloom and also has an impressive cold tolerance. Producing high yields of 3-4” bright red tomatoes, the fruit is tangy, acidic, and perfect for slicing, canning, and sauces.

No matter the variety of tomato you choose, the satisfaction of gardening, working towards producing something delicious, is fulfilling. For additional information on growing tomatoes and other gardening topics, visit our GrangeKnows page.

Thank you to our GrangeGardening Expert, Kraig, for his educational video. For more tips and recommendations, visit our GrangeKnows page online or in store and happy planting!