Eat August: Heirloom Tomatoes

Eat August: Heirloom Tomatoes

August 10, 2018

What's that heirloom you've been talking about?

The dirt on heirloom tomatoes and why they're so good.  

There are few things more frustrating when it comes to taste than eating an unripe, pale, almost mealy tomato. Perhaps it pops up sneakily in a sandwich or is mixed into a salad you order at a restaurant. Commercially available tomatoes have become increasing devoid of flavor and individuality. But if you walk through a farmer’s market in the summer or, like us, love to grow things perhaps you’ve been fortunate enough to see and taste the plethora of colors and characters of heirloom tomatoes.  

As their name suggests heirloom tomatoes have long histories. Their seeds have been nurtured and saved for generations by people who recognized their value. Heirlooms are open-pollinated, which means the plant is pollinated naturally and produce tomatoes that are genetically identical to the parent plant. With the commercialization of agriculture in the last century heirloom tomatoes were left behind in the wake of hybrid tomatoes, who were bred specifically to make them desirable for mass production. The intricate shapes and speckled hues were lost, instead bred for uniformity and ease of transportation, production and distribution. More importantly the significance of seed diversity, an essential component of a sustainable food system was neglected.

But if in case you haven’t been paying attention heirloom tomatoes are having a moment, and we’re thrilled about it! Whether it’s at the farmer’s market, at a restaurant or even occasionally in a small supermarket we’ve been noticing the electric greens, soft yellows and dark reds of heirlooms more and more. There are hundreds of varieties and we can’t help but love them all. That being said we’d like to introduce to a few of our recent favorites from the GROW harden to spark your inspiration:

Costoluto Genovese

Beloved by all the Costoluto Genovese varietal origins from Italy. Their complex ridged texture and bright red color make these heirlooms very special visually -- perhaps a reason for the particularly attention they receive from chefs. They have a meaty, rich flavor, while still being slightly tart. These tomatoes are used fresh and in sauces a like. We’ve been experimenting with using them for pico de gallo. We think it’s divine. But why don’t you give it a shot?

Black Vernissage

These colorful jewels have a dark green base with earthy green stripes. A little larger than your average cherry tomato this variety is full of flavor. Their high production and thicker skin make them more attainable at farmers markets but we still like to grow our own. As with most black tomatoes they are ideal for making sauces, why not give a spicy arrabbiata try?

Ox Heart

The Ox Heart varietal is more formally referred to as the Cuor di Bue if you’re feeling fancy (and speak Italian). As you might have guessed this quirky tomato comes from Northern Italy, from a small coastal town called Albenga. It has a meaty texture and full flavor. We like this tomato pretty much any way but this season we tried roasting thin slices with a little oregano and salt. We think it’s a game changer but you will have to try it yourself. 

Yellow Pear

These golden beauties are get their name from their subtle pear-like shape. They are some of our favorite heirlooms to grow because they are very easy and very productive. The yellow pear varietal has a mild yet sweet taste, which makes it hard for us to stop eating them as we pick them. If they ever do make it to the kitchen we love halving them and throwing them in a salad for a colorful pop.

Tess’s Land Race

They say good things come in small packages. Well after enjoying a few bites of these little guys you’ll believe it. Tess’s Land Race tomatoes are wonderfully bountiful. In fact they’re so bountiful and they’re harvesting season is so long you might not even be able to pick them all! As with most cherry tomatoes we love adding them fresh to salads. They are sweet and juicy, providing a great burst of flavor to any dish.

Green Vernissage

They may be green but we promise they are ripe. These green striped cherries give a burst of sweetness. Highly productive we love to enjoy them all season long. We can’t seem to forget about the time we tried them on a thin slice of toasted whole grain with a sprinkle of salt. Simple is best with these tomatoes as they tend to be the star of the show.

Yellow Husk Ground Cherry

Yellow husk ground cherries, cape gooseberries, husk tomatoes, these little guys can’t decide what they want to be called. Irregardless, we promise there few things quite as pleasing as opening up the little husk of a ground cherry and finding a plump golden treat inside. They have a ripe, earthy taste and an intriguing texture from the density of tiny seeds that make up the fruit. Try enjoying them completely plan to get to know this unusual variety but if you’re ready to experiment a little more we recommend tossing them in a quinoa or couscous salad with some fresh herbs.

Black Krim

These large bulging tomatoes originate from Russia but now having spread far from their place of origin are regularly celebrated for their rich flavor. Don’t let their unusual exterior shape fool you, the Black Krim varietal has a delicate flesh. We enjoy them best thinly sliced with a drizzle of olive oil, some fresh herbs and perhaps a bit of feta.

There are hundreds of heirloom tomatoes, and these are just a handful of our favorites from our summer harvest. We would love to hear about what you’re growing. Tag us on Instagram or shoot us a message so we can share in your growing journey.

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