It’s tomato time on the farm and you’ll start seeing our heirloom tomatoes at the markets. But do you know what makes an heirloom tomato special? Most experts can’t agree on an official definition but majority believe that it is a variety of tomato whose seeds have been passed down through generations; from family to family, farmer to farmer, or gardener to gardener. Some say the seed variety has to be at least 50 years old, some say it has to be 100 years old. Heirloom tomatoes are like the antiques of the tomato world.
Why are heirloom tomatoes good? Have you noticed at the grocery store that all the tomatoes are generally the same size, shape, and color? They all have a tough outer skin and don’t have a very strong flavor. These tomatoes have all been engineered that way. They are picked while still unripe and green and artificially turned red. But heirloom tomatoes are ripened on the vine so they have full flavor. There are many more varieties of heirloom tomatoes than the processed hybrid ones so there’s an abundance of flavors and textures. Plus, heirlooms have been around long enough so through natural selection they are the strongest natural breeds of tomatoes against disease and pests.
Rhibafarms has two types of heirloom tomatoes: red brandywine and black cherry. Brandywine tomatoes are an Amish variety that dates back to the late 1800’s. It is thought to be a favorite among experts for its superior taste. Black cherry tomatoes are purple in color with a rich and complex flavor. Purple tomatoes are believed to have originated in the Ukraine and Russia.
So pick up some heirloom tomatoes at your farmer’s market this week and try them in a new recipe!
Heirloom tomato and white peach salad
Arrange quartered heirloom tomatoes, quartered white peaches, and thinly sliced red onion on a plate. Sprinkle with torn basil and cumbled feta or ricotta salata. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper and serve.
Pasta with marinated heirloom tomatoes
Combine sliced tomatoes, fresh basil, capers, lemon zest, and red pepper flakes in a bowl. In a skillet warm olive oil and chopped garlic until fragrant. Pour oil over tomato mixture and toss. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, cook your favorite short pasta. After draining the pasta toss it with the tomato mixture. Can be served warm or cold.
Ricotta with heirloom tomatoes on toast
Lightly toast a thick piece of whole wheat bread. Spread ricotta over it, top with fresh basil and sliced tomatoes, drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Watermelon and heirloom tomato salad
Chop one watermelon, several tomatoes, and one cucumber. Put in a bowl with crumbled goat cheese and fresh basil, drizzle with lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper.