heirlooms

OK, so for all you city folks who never had a tomato that wasn’t red and didn’t come out of a grocery, know that tomatoes come in all shapes, funky sizes, and colors. Yellow, striped, green, purplish, orange. And they also come in a wide variety of tastes and textures and are grown for different uses. A roma tomato is for sauces, a green zebra for salads.

Heirloom tomatoes often look deformed and kinda creepy, but they have the best taste. Tomatoes in grocery stores are not bred for taste or nutrition, they are bred for their ability to take abuse in transit and to survive storage. They are often picked while they are green, so they have less (or no) flavor). And if refrigerated to 40 degrees or under, all tomatoes lose flavor.

Country folks are mad about their tomatoes and grow all kinds of unusual varieties for home canning, soups, stews, pasta sauce, and yummy sandwiches. In a good year, I will grow hundreds of pounds of tomatoes on no more than about 10 plants. Here’s a pic of the tomato sauce production in my kitchen!

Heriloom tomatoes can be found at the farmer’s market at $3 or more per pound, but any farmer will tell you they are harder to sell, because customers are unfamiliar with the unusual shapes and colors. They are often blemished as well, which has no effect on taste.

If you’d like to try growing a few tomato plants of your own, with just a little knowledge and diligence, it’s fairly easy. Check out this terrific catalog for great tomato varieties and tips. Once you’ve tasted a home grown heirloom tomato, you’ll never be satisfied with store bought again!