Skip to Content

Are Better Boy Tomatoes Heirloom – Here’s How To Tell

The Better Boy tomato. One of the most popular tomatoes grown in the United States. When you think of a classic tomato in your head, that’s a better boy tomato—looking ideally round, with a juicy red color. A perfect balance of sweet and acidic flavors, it’s no wonder year after year, everyone loves having this tomato in their garden. The Better Boy tomato is just one of many different varieties of tomato. The list is extensive, and there seems always to be new varieties popping up. Each of these varieties can be fit into two groups: heirloom and hybrid tomatoes. 

The Better Boy tomato is classified as a hybrid tomato. It is said to have been created in the 1940s-50s by a man named John Peto, who initially worked with the Burpee company. 

But, what is the difference between hybrid and heirloom tomatoes? If you would like to find out the answer and more details about the better boy tomato, keep on reading.

Difference Between Hybrid and Heirloom Tomatoes

At first, the world of hybrid and heirloom tomatoes can seem daunting and confusing; however, I am here to clear some of that up. Let’s break it down.

Heirloom TomatoesHybrid Tomatoes
Heirloom tomatoes are the original tomato. The original seed that was here on Earth. Heirloom seeds have not been changed in any way and are the mother seeds. These tomatoes can be a bit unpredictable, but very hardy and full of flavor and unique shapes and colors. 

Heirloom tomatoes are better for saving seeds because the seeds are original. When the plant the saved heirloom seeds, you know exactly what you are going to get.
Hybrid seeds have been genetical modified by scientists to create tomatoes that are disease resistant, drought resistant, weather resistant, and just overall very desirable tomatoes. Hybrid plants were bred to produce more and better tasting fruit as well. In order to create a hybrid tomato seed, you need to have two heirloom tomatoes that act as the “parents”. Hybrid tomatoes are the offspring of these two heirloom seeds. 

It isn’t recommended to save hybrid tomato seeds because since the seed has to be made from two heirloom seeds, the saved hybrid seed is unpredictable. Some gardeners enjoy this and the mystery tomato can be intriguing, but for people wanting a certain thing out of their garden, it is best to save heirloom seeds only. 
Hybrid vs Heirloom Tomatoes

How Was the Better Boy Tomato Created?

Now that we have discussed the difference between hybrid and heirloom, and we know that the Better Boy is a hybrid tomato, you may be curious about how the Better Boy was created. 

Only the man (John Peto) and the Burpee company know the exact heirloom cross to make the Better Boy tomato. However, it has been revealed that the Teddy Jones tomato is one of the parents. The Teddy Jones tomato is a large, pink steak, meaty tomato from the midwest. Teddy Jones seeds are impossible to get these days because the Burpee company repurchased all of them some 70 years ago to protect their tomato breedings. It is rumored that the company paid twenty-four dollars for all of the Teddy Jones seeds and rights to the seeds. 

The Better Boy tomato was created to be a better version of the Big Boy tomato. A similar tomato, but with some slight size and flavor differences. They both share the same parent: Teddy Jones. 

Difference Between Better Boy and Big Boy Tomatoes

Why did they have to create something to be better than the Big Boy tomato? What did they change? The Big Boy tomato is an all-time classic, but the Better Boy tomato was created to be slightly different. Their flavors and practically the same, and they look almost the same as well, but the Better Boy tomato was created to be more disease resistant than the Big Boy tomato. That alone makes the plant a little bit easier to grow. 

Better Boy Tomato Growing Tips

The Better Boy tomato is an easy tomato to grow, which is also why it’s so popular. Here are some helpful things to know when growing Better Boy tomatoes.

  1. Disease resistant- The Better Boy was bred to be resistant to fusarium wilt and verticillium.
  2. Climbers- They can get to be very large plants, so they need their space. Since they are climbers, they will also need a proper trellis system. The tomatoes can get big and a little heavy, so this is important. It is easier to put up a trellis system before the plant needs it because it can be a nightmare trying to mend your plant after the damage has been done. Also, if you already have something the plant can climb onto, it will naturally grow around your trellis system. 
  3. Big leaves- This tomato was also bred to have larger leaves. This protects against sunscald, which can be very helpful in hot sunny climates. 
  4. Pruning- Since they have many leaves and big leaves, it is helpful, but it also means you should try and prune as much as possible. Taking off the unnecessary leaves from the bottom of the plant is essential, so your plant grows taller and not so bushy. And some sun coverage is good, but you don’t want too much because tomatoes do need a little sun to grow. 
  5. Yield- Normally, the Better Boy will produce its larger fruit at the beginning of its harvest. As time goes on, the fruit will get smaller.

What Is Better: Hybrid or Heirloom Tomatoes?

There is no right answer for which one is better, hybrid over heirloom tomatoes. It is all just personal preference. Some only like to grow heirlooms because they enjoy saving seeds or like the taste of heirloom tomatoes. I love heirloom tomatoes because I like the funky shapes and bright colors that always appear. I find their taste amazing, and they’re wonderful for making sauces. Hybrids have the advantage of being disease resistant, and some people love that, and I don’t blame anybody because a disease ridden tomato garden is awful. 

If you are looking for something very specific out of your garden, a certain variety, a certain yield, a specific flavor or appearance, then hybrid tomatoes are the way to go. With heirloom tomatoes, there is more room for adventure.

Final Thoughts

The Better Boy tomato is an amazing tomato created in the 1950s and has been a crowd-pleaser. It is a hybrid tomato, bred to be a better version of the Big Boy tomato. Packed with flavor and large juicy tomatoes, the Better Boy tomato plant is perfect if you are looking for a high yielding big tomato. Great for sauces, sandwiches, and soups! Better Boy tomato is easy to grow and perfect for the new gardener, though even the most experienced may fall back on growing this delicious tomato. Happy gardening!