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The Differences Between Red and Heirloom Tomatoes

Updated: May 1, 2021

Believe it or not, there are many different kinds of tomatoes out in the world, most common being the red tomato. You might be familiar with those as they're in salads, on burgers, and thrown at bad comedians.

Let's start with the basics of tomatoes: is a tomato a fruit or vegetable? This existential question has plagued civilizations for centuries and continues to be a mystery to this day...

...actually just kidding. A tomato is a fruit.

Now that we've gotten that outta the way, let's get to the subject at-hand.

Red Tomatoes Vs. Heirloom Tomatoes

From the surface, it's apparent that red tomatoes and heirloom tomatoes are visibly different. Reds look normal and familiar, while heirlooms can appear a bit strange to someone who hasn't seen one before. By looking at the featured image of this blog, you'll know what we're talking about. But despite an heirloom's funny look, they taste just as great as any red tomato; however, there is a difference in how they hit the taste buds.

Red tomatoes have a more acidic taste, whereas heirlooms are sweeter. One's not better than the other, it just really comes down to personal preference.

But that's not the only thing that separates the two types of tomatoes. As a matter of fact, it gets much more scientific and technical.

What is an Heirloom Tomato?

According to, "Heirlooms are prized for their diversity of color, shape and flavor and come from plant seeds that are at least 50 years old," (Peterson, 2021). This also means no crossbreeding, as other tomatoes like the red, are crossbred to have specific characteristics and attributes that make them sturdier against disease and last longer on the shelf.

And it's not just in crossbreeding that makes them so different, but in how they're planted.

One source on this, Michelin, states that, "Heirloom varieties are open-pollinated. This means you can save seeds from heirloom tomatoes, plant them, and expect them to grow into new tomato plants. If two or more varieties are planted close to one another, you might just end up with a new variety!", (Tan, 2017).

As said before, regular tomatoes are generally crossbred to have a longer shelf-life, where heirlooms might not last as long. For anyone looking to purchase and eat a tomato in the same day, an heirloom is the perfect way to go.

Finally, what might appear to be bruising, discoloring, or breakage in the fruit due to water is actually a natural character trait of the heirloom. Purple coloring is perfectly normal and one of the green variety can still be ripe.

Are Red Tomatoes Crossbred and is That a Bad Thing?

"Crossbreeding" might seem like a bad word when it comes to food, but it's really not. Most of the tomatoes at supermarkets happen to be crossbred, or more accurately, cross-pollinated.

Cross-pollination happens within the same species of tomato, but is used to create a stronger, more durable tomato (a super-tomato!). This allows these tomatoes to last longer and fight off diseases that would naturally affect an heirloom.

Red Tomatoes and Heirloom Tomatoes at Fiddlers' Farm

If you're interested in either red or heirloom tomatoes, you're in luck! Here at Fiddlers' Farm, we have a wide variety of tomato options to choose from. Just check out our Vegetables/Fruits page or the Farmers Markets page to see where we'll be selling our produce.

To learn more, send us an email at


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