One of these tomato varieties contains lycopene that is more easily absorbed into your bloodstream, and therefore better for you. Can you tell which one?

Heirloom Tomatoes


This research is looking to find the best open-pollinated tomato varieties in the world for human health, particularly those highest in lycopene for cancer prevention.

The research sought to determine whether hybrid tomato varieties (and by implication, vegetables in general) are nutritionally deficient in comparison with traditional open-pollinated heirloom varieties.

Through this research and the world-wide search for heritage tomato varieties conducted by the HFCRT, New Zealanders now have the opportunity to grow these ‘real’ tomatoes with their more available form of lycopene. The Trust makes seeds of these varieties freely available as a wellbeing initiative for all New Zealanders, and gratefully accepts any donations to help us continue our work.

To obtain seeds, please send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to:

Heritage Food Crops Research Trust
126A Springvale Road
Whanganui 4501

The Secret to Our Health Lies in Older Varieties of Fruit

A search for the best tomatoes for health has uncovered rare heritage varieties that contain a different form of lycopene that is easily absorbed when eaten raw.

Up to now it was generally understood that you needed to cook your tomatoes in order to improve the absorption of lycopene, the powerful antioxidant that appears to exert positive effects upon human health. But the latest New Zealand research shows that the need to cook your tomatoes only relates to modern varieties and may be due to a fundamental flaw in breeding the first red tomatoes.


Jessica and the Golden Orb

Jessica and the Golden Orb

A story for children about the very special properties of golden-orange tomatoes, written and illustrated by Janet Bradbury.

We welcome you to download a copy of the book to print or read from your computer for free.


'Jessica and the Golden Orb' was featured by the Wanganui Midweek newspaper in the article 'Tomato stars in new book'.

Moonglow tomatoes

Moonglow tomatoes

Rosalita tomatoes

Rosalita tomatoes

Discovery of the Real Tomato

We are delighted to announce a break-through in our understanding about the superior health benefits of specific tomato varieties.

Two types of lycopene can be found in tomato. All-trans-lycopene is commonly found in red (and other colour) tomatoes; and tetra-cis-lycopene (also known as prolycopene) is found in some heirloom tomatoes within the golden to orange and tangerine colour spectrum.

Note that not all tomatoes with the colour will contain tetra-cis-lycopene, as some will contain beta-carotene instead, which exhibits the same colour. Hence, it is necessary to have varieties chemically analysed to determine whether they contain tetra-cis-lycopene or whether the colour is exhibited from the beta-carotene in the tomato.

It has been known for some time that all-trans-lycopene is not well absorbed by the human body: hence the advice to eat cooked tomatoes so the body can better absorb the lycopene. The linear configuration of the all-trans-lycopene molecule seems to hinder its absorption through human intestinal walls and into the blood, according to Steven Schwartz from Ohio State's Comprehensive Cancer Centre.

However tetra-cis-lycopene is much better absorbed by the body — in fact two and a half times better! The structure of this lycopene molecule conforms more closely with the lycopene found circulating in human blood.

Eleven more heirloom tomato varieties that contain this highly beneficial anti-oxidant compound have been identified in the latest research by the Heritage Food Crops Research Trust, assisted by Plant and Food Research in New Zealand.

Realising that the cultivated common tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) was originally a golden-orange colour is a key piece of the puzzle. This was the colour of the first tomatoes found by the Spanish in Mexico in the early 1500s and taken back to Europe. When they arrived in Italy, they were named pomodoro: "golden fruit".

It is our hypothesis that these golden tomatoes contained the tetra-cis form of lycopene and that they were highly beneficial for human health, as the tetra-cis-lycopene would have been easily absorbed through the intestinal walls into the bloodstream.

Later, when breeding of tomatoes began, they were bred purely for consumer appeal to be red. Unfortunately for 400 years there has been a lack of understanding about the consequences of that breeding approach.

The beneficial tetra-cis-lycopene is a recessive gene, and as systematic breeding took place, this recessive gene was replaced by the more dominant all-trans-lycopene gene.

In order to correct this mistake, we must go back to the past to re-discover the old original tomatoes that still contain the correct composition of beneficial compounds for human health. This is the focus of our research. We believe we have found the indicator that we have been searching for: tetra-cis lycopene. We believe that the varieties that still contain this compound have retained sufficient elements of their original genetic makeup to be the correct platform from which to take tomatoes into the future.

One of the great challenges for people at this time is the lack of understanding of the consequences of our actions. We have a vast amount of knowledge and technical skill, but we appear to lack the wisdom to know when to apply them and when not to. Tomato is one of the most widely eaten fruits in the world and as such could play a major role in reducing heart disease and cancer — but only if we eat the varieties with high levels of beneficial compounds. However the unrestrained commercial breeding of tomatoes has led to a disturbing reduction in their actual medicinal benefit.

We are now beginning the second phase of our tomato research, concentrating on growing those varieties that are high in tetra-cis-lycopene and distributing them throughout New Zealand communities.

Based on what we have learnt from years of research into apples and tomatoes — that commercially bred varieties contain reduced levels of beneficial compounds — we will not "breed" these orange tomatoes, cross them or in any other way artificially manipulate them.

However we will encourage members of our community to become part of this next phase of the research – to actively participate by growing these plants with love. This is the most important ingredient that we can share, along with our intention to be open to these plants further evolving, so that their fruits will contain the very best qualities for human health and wellbeing. In this way we wish to create through our positive intention, and to allow the consequences to freely manifest.

The Moonglow tomato variety

Moonglow tomatoes also make a terrific centrepiece!

Invitation to New Zealand Tomato Growers

Just a few of the 100 heirloom tomato varieties grown in 2009 for scientific analysis.

We invite keen tomato growers to join us and be part of our ongoing tomato research.

The Heritage Food Crops Research Trust began researching heirloom tomatoes in 2007. This has culminated with the finding of varieties that contain a better form of lycopene (known as tetra-cis-lycopene) that has been shown in studies in the United States to be 2.5 times more efficiently absorbed by the body than the all-trans-lycopene found in red tomatoes. The tetra-cis-lycopene is found in certain golden orange heirloom tomatoes and the Trust has imported seed of these varieties for its research.

Lycopene that can be absorbed, finds its way into the blood where because it is a powerful antioxidant, it protects cells and essential fatty acids ("the good fats") against oxidation.

We believe that there is a wonderful opportunity to improve human health by replacing red tomatoes with these orange tomatoes. Tomato is the primary source of lycopene for human consumption. We know that it is a powerful biological antioxidant and scientific studies have shown that high lycopene intake is associated with decreased risk of heart disease and cancer, especially prostate cancer.

We also ask growers to keep an eye out for any possible changes as the varieties may potentially evolve naturally over time. We wish to avoid the mistakes made by commercial breeders in the past who have diminished the levels of beneficial compounds in today's modern tomatoes. Rather than try and control the breeding process, as commercial breeders do, we would like to try an alternative approach.

Our objective is to have the best tomatoes in the world for human health and we would like individuals who share this intent to join us, to grow these tomatoes with this intention and with love. It is an open-source project in that people will be free to grow and sell their produce or plants or give them away to others. We just ask that you don't physically manipulate the varieties to try and cross them. Just allow this to happen naturally, if that is what is meant to happen, and if you notice that a change has occurred in the variety, then please share a few seeds back with us, so that we can monitor and analyse the ongoing development of these fruits.

Science now recognises that scientists can influence the outcomes of their experiments just by wanting a particular outcome and hence the modern advent and use of double-blind trials. We believe that a person's intention when they plant a seed can influence the growth and development of that plant. We would like to couple that with research into whether outcomes are not as random as has previously been thought. Einstein used to say that "God does not play dice" (allowing for each person's individual interpretation for the term "God"), perhaps life has more meaning than we may have previously attributed to it. Perhaps there are external factors and natural laws that affect man. Perhaps we have a creative ability through our intention that can influence the outcome of events. Our research intends to explore these possibilities through the medium of "tomatoes".

Contact us if you would like to be a part of our research and trial one of these varieties.

Research Papers

Mark Christensen

Mark Christensen inspects some of the Trust's golden/orange tomatoes.