Also referred to as antique or heritage tomatoes, Heirloom Tomatoes are all open-pollinated, meaning the seed that comes from the fruit will grow the same tomato it came from. (This is not true of seed collected from hybrid fruit, which will revert unreliably back to one of its parents.) People generally talk of four classes or categories of heirlooms: Family Heirlooms — varieties saved from year to year, and generation to generation. Commercial Heirlooms — open-pollinated varieties released by seed companies before the advent of hybrids in the late 1950s. Created Heirlooms — an intentional cross of two heirlooms to achieve a desired result. Accidental or Mystery Heirlooms — This just happens through cross-pollination or mutation. 1% or more of the seed in an heirloom tomato will produce a different type of tomato. If it is grown out and remains the same year after year, you have a new variety, called a "sport."
In general, heirlooms come from a time when farmers and gardeners saved seed from year to year. Each year the best of the crop was saved to be the seed for the next year. Eating an heirloom tomato (or other heirloom crops, too) takes you back to that time. A time before genetically engineered, Round-up ready crops, before mechanically harvested tomatoes with the qualities of the tennis ball. Through our tomatoes, we invite you to join us in our time traveling.
As you can see from the photos here, tomatoes come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Some 10,000 varieties in all. At Dancing Bear Farm we try to keep it down to under 100 varieties. This gives us fruits of all sizes, shapes, and colors.