236 Heirloom Tomato Cultivar Evaluation

in HortScience
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  • 1 Ohio State Univ., Dept. of Horticulture and Crop Science, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210

The specialty vegetable market is a rapidly expanding niche in the produce industry. One popular sector of this market is focused on heirloom tomatoes. Heirloom varieties, mostly open-pollinated, are often favored for their taste and unique shapes and colors. Older, traditional varieties have been maintained mostly by home gardeners, seed saver organizations, and government germplasm centers, but are becoming increasingly popular with commercial growers, consumers, and seed companies. Special growing techniques and attention to postharvest handling is also necessary with heirloom tomatoes because most do not have an extended shelf life. For growers willing to develop special harvesting and handling techniques, specialty tomatoes offer colors, shapes, and flavors that are an important part of today's cuisine. Performance of a given cultivar will vary from year to year depending on several factors: planting date, irrigation, disease pressure, staking practices, and climatic conditions during the growing season. Fourteen heirloom tomato cultivars have been researched at Ohio State Univ. (OSU) since 1995. Data collected on yield, fruit characteristics, market outlets, cultural information, special harvesting and handling requirements, and disease pressure for heirloom cultivars will be presented.

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