Relics of the past may bring to mind images of ancient architecture, the paintings of the great masters, or even the pyramids.

Then there are the compositions of Mozart, Bach and Beethoven, or the original Declaration of Independence.Heirlooms are valued in part because of high quality and in part because they are passed from one generation to the next.

Few of us realize when we have actually eaten a legacy. In fact, the food on our tables has come to us through generations of seed-saving. The varieties undergo change, but the genes containing a living genetic pattern come down through the ages.

When John Borski inherited his family's farm in Kaysville, he became a traditional farmer specializing in heirloom tomatoes. One day he brought samples of his harvest to Will Pliler, long-time chef at The New Yorker. Pliler beamed his approval and said, "I'll take everything you can grow."

He meant it.

The reason the chef and the gardener are so excited about heirloom seeds is that the fresh flavors are nothing like those in the supermarket.

Pliler is ecstatic about "fresh, vine-ripe tomatoes, because you can't buy anything like them. The only way you can get them is to grow them yourself. So I keep telling John to grow more tomatoes. We go through 200 pounds of tomatoes a week here, and I keep asking him for more."

On his eight-acre spread, Borski grows 40 different varieties of tomatoes, including such favorites as Brandywines, Olympic Flame, Golden Tomato, Green Zebra, Lemon Boy, Golden Roma and German Red.

At the New Yorker, Pliler enthusiastically creates many different kinds of delicious tomato salads with startling flavors. He puts heirloom tomatoes on the plate and purposely obscures them.

He decorates them with American-made blue cheese, olive oil and black pepper - even fresh peaches with fresh parmesan cheese on top.

"People think, `Oh, my goodness, fresh peaches with tomatoes! Some people go crazy,"says Pliler.

After all, these are natural tomatoes that ripen when they feel like it. Their appearance varies according to size, shape and color - with absolutely no artificial help.

Borski smiles wryly and says, "If you take these to Chuckarama, people are going to pass them up and go for the red tomatoes!"

Experienced farmers know that in the past 50 years the big seed companies created a monopoly as they hybridized their tomatoes so they would look good and last a long time on the shelf.

Hybrids are combinations generated by cross breeding, such as the marriage of an early, small, fruited tomato and a late, large, fruited tomato to produce an early, large, fruited tomato.

Unfortunately, it is only the first generation of plants created in this way that produce the desired results. Some hybrids don't even produce viable seed.

In Pliler's opinion, "There is very little resemblance between the tomatoes you purchase in the supermarket and these heirloom tomatoes. These tomatoes taste the way tomatoes are supposed to taste."

He adds, "Most people don't know that all supermarket tomatoes are picked bright green, packed in boxes, exactly the same. They're hybridized to be the same size. They ship them green clear around the world, then they put them in a room and gas them. You're really not eating ripe tomatoes."

Borski saves his seeds and regrows them the next year. Last year, he saved 50 percent of his seeds, and he is planning on saving 60 percent to 70 percent this year. In about five years he hopes to be "totally self-sustainable."

But Borski is in the distinct minority in Utah, which has embraced hybrids with a vengeance. In neighboring Idaho, there are at least 600 certified organic farmers, and organic farming is the rage in California.

In Utah, however, certified organic farmers are rare indeed.

There is a ton of history in these seeds. Pliler raves about pizza sauce made from heirloom tomatoes in a blender with fresh rosemary, thyme, black pepper and garlic. Borski likes it with fresh basil, olive oil and mozzarella. Initially, he hesitates to compare vintage tomatoes with caviar, but he can't resist: "They're exclusive, very seasonal, and some people are absolutely nuts about them."

And Borski doesn't care if anyone else grows what he grows. For the good of generations to come, he sends enlightened growers to seed companies that deal in heirloom seeds, such as Abundant Life, World Seed Foundation, Bountiful Gardens and Seeds Blum.

Contact Seeds Blum, HC 33, Box 2057, Boise, Idaho 83706. Call toll-free 1-800-528-3658, fax 1-208-338-5658, or find it on the Web at (www.seedsblum.com.)

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RECIPES

HEIRLOOM TOMATOES AND CORN SALAD

Several heirloom tomatoes (2 per person)

Crumbled blue cheese or gorgonzola

Freshly cooked corn kernels cut from cob

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Cut the fresh tomatoes into thick slabs; arrange them onto a platter. Top them with crumbled blue cheese and fresh cooked corn; drizzle a little olive oil over the top. Fresh ground pepper is delicious on top; so is a little kosher salt, but beware not to add too much, as the blue cheese tends to be a little salty. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Serves 6.

- Each serving contains 189 calories, 9g fat, 7g protein, 23g carb, 215mg sodium, 8mg cholesterol.

- From Chef Will Pliler, The New Yorker

HEIRLOOM TOMATO SALAD

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Several heirloom tomatoes (approximately 2 per person)

Fresh peach slices or pear slices

Thin sliced celery for garnish (decorative strands)

Shaved fresh Parmesan cheese

Fresh mint leaves (optional)

Make the vinaigrette: add the first 3 ingredients to a 1 pint jar and shake vigorously until emulsified; set aside. Slice the tomatoes, top with celery, peach slices, mint leaves and balsamic vinaigrette. Sprinkle on the shaved Parmesan. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Serves 6.

- Each serving contains 476 calories, 37g fat, 6g protein, 24g carb, 966mg sodium, 3mg cholesterol.

- From Chef Will Pliler, The New Yorker

ROASTED YELLOW ROMA TOMATOES

Several ripe yellow Roma tomatoes, rinsed, cut in half lengthwise

Herbs de Provence

Salt and black pepper

Fresh garlic cloves, chopped

Extra virgin olive oil

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees F. Place the tomatoes cut side up on a cookie sheet; sprinkle generously with all the other ingredients, place in the oven for approximately 1 hour or until tender and a little shriveled. Serve hot or at room temperature. Serves 1.

- Each serving contains 355 calories, 29g fat 26g carb, 5g protein, 312mg sodium, 0mg cholesterol.

- From Chef Will Pliler, The New Yorker

- NOTE: This can be served as a side dish or on top of grilled or roasted meats and fish.