Save vs. Splurge: Fancy Ketchups

When should you splurge for fancy ketchup, and when should you stick with Heinz? See more pictures of heirloom tomatoes.

Despite those long rows of red bottles on supermarket shelves, ketchups can and have been made from a variety of ingredients, including bananas and mushrooms. Tomato ketchup came about when European traders brought the fruit from the Americas to China in the 15th century. The Chinese found it useful for making sauces, which they seasoned with onion, garlic and peppers. The British in particular had acquired a taste for spicy Asian sauces, but they embraced the tomato version only after overcoming their aversion to the tomato itself (including the belief that it was poisonous).

Today, exotic ketchups are enjoying a renaissance. You can find varieties flavored with anything from organic tea to Bordeaux wine. These gourmet ketchups can carry gourmet prices, of course. Are they worth the added expense? Or can you have the best of both -- fancy flavor without a high price to match? Let's examine the options.