“Should I grow heirloom tomatoes or hybrid tomatoes?”

The controversy over whether to grow heirloom tomatoes or hybrid tomatoes has been known to spark passionate debate between normally level-headed gardening aficionados.

Both varieties have strengths and weaknesses. We’ve dug up the dirt so you can choose for yourself.

Heirloom Tomatoes

Heirloom tomatoes, or “open pollinated” (OP) tomatoes, are varieties that have been reproduced for generations. They’re true to their type from their own seed. Gardeners appreciate their consistency. Like hybrids, they can be eaten raw or cooked.

Some heirlooms have production histories spanning hundreds of years. A tomato variety is considered an heirloom if it has been cultivated for at least 3 generations.

Heirloom pluses

  • Stability. Heirlooms produce large numbers of seeds and bear tomatoes identical to parents.
  • Taste. Heirlooms are considered flavorful, and even superior to commercially-produced varieties.
  • Disease-resistance. Heirloom fans argue that their preferred varieties have a long record of producing healthy tomatoes. Hybrid fans disagree.
  • Individuality. Many heirlooms have unique shapes and sport a variety of colors, including purple, yellow, white, orange, pink, red, green, black, and striped.

Heirloom minuses

  • Individuality. Same coin, different side. Some gardeners and consumers don’t want unusual, misshapen, or inconsistent tomatoes. They simply want red, juicy ones.
  • Productivity. Heirlooms take longer to mature and produce fewer tomatoes than hybrids.

Hybrid Tomatoes

Hybrid tomatoes are a cross between two genetically different tomato varieties. With a hybrid, you get the best qualities of both parents.

Commercial growers like hybrids because they are predictable. Home gardeners prefer them because they present fewer problems.

Hybrid pluses

  • Productivity. Most agree: grow hybrids, you’ll harvest more tomatoes.
  • Disease-resistance. Hybrids have a reputation for not being as susceptible to diseases and pests as their heirloom counterparts.
  • Strength. Hybrids produce even in bad weather and questionable growing conditions.
  • Consistency. Hybrids are known for yielding tomatoes of similar size and with fewer blemishes.
  • Longevity. Harvested hybrid tomatoes have staying power. They endure the ride to Grandma’s house or the long hours on the roadside stand better than heirlooms.

Hybrid minuses

  • Flavor. Most gardeners agree that hybrids aren’t as flavorful as heirlooms.
  • Instability. Call it a genetic breakdown if you must. Long term, hybrids just don’t produce seeds as strong as what birthed them – according to experts. However, many home gardeners claim they save hybrid seeds year to year which produce seedlings and fruit that is true to the original hybrid.

Understanding tomato varieties

How to understand the way tomato varieties are classified...

Tomato of the month: fun and interesting types of tomatoes ...

Best tomato varieties to grow: readers share favorites ...

Lists of tomato varieties

Most popular tomato varieties for the home garden ...

All-America selections: most respected tomato varieties ...

Tomatoes for the south: best varieties to grow in hot, humid climates...

Best tomatoes for hot, dry climates ...

Most blight-resistant tomato varieties ...

Cool tolerant tomato varieties ...

Best tomatoes for cold climates ...

Choosing tomato varieties for large containers ...

Best tomato varieties for small containers ...

Hanging tomatoes: best varieties ...

Best tomato varieties for drying ...

Best heat-tolerant tomato varieties ...

Fall tomato varieties ...

Best indoor tomato varieties ...

Return from Heirloom Tomatoes vs. Hybrids to Tomato Dirt home

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave a comment in the box below.

Join us on Facebook

Follow Me on Pinterest

FREE! Tomato
Growing Tips
20-page guide
when you sign up for
Tomato Dirt newsletter!




Don't worry -- your e-mail address is totally secure.
I promise to use it only to send you Tomato Dirt.