Hybrids are formed when two plants of different varieties of the same species are crossed for specific traits. This practice has been conducted by farmers and gardeners for thousands of years by cross-pollinating two different, but related plants over 6 to 10 plant generations, eventually creating a new plant variety. The process requires patience, but is rewarding. By selectively cross-pollinating related plants in this way, farmers could create varieties that were healthier and stood up to the farmer’s micro-climate — their soil, their weather patterns, their predatory insects.
Hybrids take the best characteristics of a male and female plant and breed them into one plant by hand pollination. A hybrid seed is often marked F-1 in the catalog. That means it is the first filial generation and will not be reliable for staying true to the seed. In other words, if you plant the seed grown from a hybrid plant, you may get any variation including traits from both parents, but it will likely not be the same plant as the original hybrid.
The key distinction is that hybrid seeds cannot be harvested or replanted for the following growing season. In general, hybrids offer some combination of best traits of the two parents such as dependability, lower care, early maturity, better yield, improved flavor, specific plant size, or disease resistance. Peppermint is an example of a hybrid of spearmint and water mint.
Commercial vs. Non-commercial Hybrids
What is generally true is that hybrid varieties developed for commercial growers are bred for characteristics that make them less perishable and easier to ship. These characteristics are important to producers who are interested in transporting crops over long distances. Unfortunately, commercial hybrid varieties generally trade off flavor and texture in order to be less perishable and easier to ship. That’s one of the reasons that tomatoes from the supermarket taste so lousy.
In contrast, hybrid tomatoes sold by local farmers, like Hattie’s Garden, are not bred for their ability to withstand shipment. These hybrid varieties can be just as tasty as an heirloom varieties. For further reading, see our commercial vs. non-commercial tomatoes FAQ.
Hybrid tomatoes are specially pollinated under controlled conditions. Some of the benefits hybrid tomatoes can provide compared to their heirloom counterparts include improved disease resistance, higher-quality fruit or a specific growth habit.
Hybrids are usually noted as “hybrid” or by “F1” or “F2”. An F1 hybrid is a filial 1, first generation cross. An F2 or filial 2, is a cross of two F1 hybrid types. If you saved the seeds of most hybrid tomatoes and re-planted them, those seeds would not have the same characteristics as your first planting.
Our hybrid tomatoes are:
Old-time tomato flavor and large beefsteak size of 10 to 12 ounces in a hybrid. An All American Selection winner, Big beef is resistant to many of the disease problems that discourage tomato growers. Vigorous plants continue to produce fruit throughout the growing season. Big Beef is early and will set fruit reliably even in cool, wet weather. Although a hybrid, it is indeterminate and will need some space.
Maturity from transplant: 70 days
Celebrity is an All American Selection winner and has grown very well for me in this region. This plant produces 7-8 ounce globe-shaped firm red fruits with very good flavor. A great, all-round, dependable choice for your “basic” tomato needs — sandwiches, slicing, snacks, etc. Great for container growing.
This one is known as a “vigorous” determinate.
Maturity from transplant: 72 days
Juliet bears delicious, wonderfully sweet little plum-shaped fruits of 1 to 2 ounces. Something of a cross between a roma and a grape tomato, Juliet is also an All American Selection, is a good stewing tomato, excellent salad tomato, and makes a tangy sauce with a diverse complex richness and full sweet tomato flavor. Soft and juicy, yet holds well on the vines a long time. Will produce tons of fruit throughout the summer and is both heat tolerant and disease resistant–tolerant to late blight and resistant to early blight. (Indeterminate–that will need plenty of room)
Juliet is also great for drying. Cut them in half, flip out the seeds and dehydrate. They are like tomato ‘raisins’— chewy and sweet to eat, use on pizza, or in a winter stir-fry.
Maturity from transplant: 60 days
Like Early Girl, New Girl produces medium sized 4 to 6 ounce fruits nice and early in the season. But New Girl is better tasting and more disease resistant than Early Girl, with excellent flavor. Perfect size for those who hate cutting into a large tomato knowing they won’t be able to eat the whole thing. (Indeterminate)
Maturity from transplant: 62 days