An Heirloom Tomato Tradition

In order to appropriately carry on the 200-plus-year-old farming tradition of the Wheatland area of Loudon County, Virginia, Lydia’s Fields committed early on to reviving the hugely popular tradition of growing many varieties of heirloom and hybrid tomatoes that was begun by our predecessor.

Cherokee Purples, Striped Germans, Lemon Boys, Tangerines, Early Girls, Green Zebras...endless variety, endless delectability!
Cherokee Purples, Striped Germans, Lemon Boys, Tangerines, Early Girls, Green Zebras…endless variety, endless flavor…

Many of our customers ask what is the difference between an heirloom and a hybrid tomato. Most experts agree that heirloom tomatoes are all open-pollinated, which means that if you collect and plant the seeds from a certain heirloom tomato variety, they will consistently produce tomato plants identical to the plant the seeds came from. It can take decades to produce an heirloom tomato variety. A hybrid tomato has been selectively grown over the years to look good and be resistant to disease and – hopefully – pests. Unlike an heirloom, the seeds of a hybrid tomato, will produce a plant that somewhat different than the original.

For us, however, the only things that matter are variety, flavor and texture. And beginning last July, our customers began discovering how different one tomato can taste from another. Our 2012 lineup featured a rainbow range of the tomatoes available today, hundreds of pounds of organically grown, delicious red, pink, yellow, purple, green and orange fruit. (Yes, Virginia, the tomato is a fruit!)

    • Early Girls: A medium-sized globe- to flat-shaped hybrid red tomato was true to its name, being among our first tomatoes. Good balance of acidity and sweetness.
    • Cherokee Purple: Quite possibly the biggest star of our tomato show. Dense, luscious, with its unusual deep purple/red hue and irregular shapes, the Cherokee was introduced in 1990 from seeds said to have originated with the Cherokee Indians.
    • Beefy Boy: A sweet, meaty globe of a red tomato that can weigh up to a pound! Perfect burger tomato.
    • Brandywine: This large sweet pink beefsteak heirloom has been seducing taste buds since 1885.
    • Brandy Boy: A hybrid designed to provide the delectable flavor of the Brandywine but with a higher resistance to pests.
A table of Lydia's tomatoes is like a table full of sunshine!
A table of Lydia’s tomatoes is like a table full of sunshine!
  • Green Zebra: No matter how many of these beautiful chartreuse orbs with their deep lime-green stripes we brought to market, they always sold out.
  • Jetsetter: Another great beefsteak tomato.
  • Lemon Boy: Uniquely bright yellow skin, the aptly named tomato looks just as much like a lemon when it is cut open. A fresh, mildly sweet flavor would be perfect with a champagne vinaigrette.
  • Momotaro: Named after the Japanese folk hero, this lovely round rose-pink tomato has such an intricate and harmonious combination of sweet and tangy flavor that anyone who tastes it takes it home.
  • Pineapple: One of two yellow-red heirlooms we grow, this beefsteak tomato is as sweet as its namesake.
  • Striped German: Everyone loved the crazy shapes and complex, sweet flavor of this heirloom. Can weigh over a pound!
  • Tangerine: So many people asked if this deep golden, nearly orange tomato was, in fact, a tomato! Its sweet taste and meaty texture won many fans.

This year, we will be adding some exciting new tomato varieties, including the venerated Italian kitchen stalwart San Marzano and the Black Prince, as well as tomatillos!