An Heirloom by Any Other Name.......
Flavorful Heirloom Tomatoes Wonderful flavorful heirloom tomatoes are now at your farmers’ market. Luscious and juicy, they are one of those summer edibles for which we can hardly wait! Slabs of juicy heirlooms in salads and sandwiches are the best – you can’t match the flavor!
An heirloom is generally considered to be a variety that has been passed down, through several generations of a family because of it’s valued characteristics. Some varieties have been handed down through the years and cultivated for over 100 years. They are “open pollinated” tomatoes as opposed to today’s hybrids. Types with long histories include Brandywine (pinkish red), Cherokee Purple (deep reddish-purple), Green Zebra (striped light and dark green), Jubilee (yellow), and German Green (green and red). Each variety is truly unique, exhibiting a special taste, color, texture or shape. Many varieties do not travel well because of their thin skins and have a shorter shelf life than conventional tomatoes. They are ideally suited to being grown by the small farmer who can quickly bring them to market once they are fully ripe. Since “heirloom” varieties have become popular in the past few years there have been liberties taken with the use of this term for commercial purposes.
In addition to these old-time varieties, a growing number of new varieties are being developed by plant breeders. These new varieties are aimed at the home and market grower, and they too may be included in the inclusive term “heirloom.” Taste is the main factor for purchasing heirlooms. They are not always pretty tomatoes, have unique form and shape, but the taste will win you over. Slice thick and place on a platter with a little mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, salt and pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil for the classic “Caprese” salad. Cut in half and place directly on the grill or in the broiler for a real treat.
Selection and Storage of Heirloom Tomatoes Look for smooth-skinned tomatoes, heavy for their size, and that softly yield to pressure, but are not mushy. Since heirloom varieties are thinner skinned than other tomatoes, they do not store very long. Purchase them when they are to be consumed within a couple of days. Do no store tomatoes in the refrigerator! The tomato will lose its wonderful flavor. Store them away from sunlight and in a cool location. Place the tomatoes for storage with the stem end facing upwards. This will help to reduce excessive softening and darkening of the tomatoes.
Common Heirloom Tomato Varieties Brandywine The Brandywine variety is the most common type of Heirloom Tomato with seeds that date back to 1885. Flavor Profile: Rich, succulent, old-fashioned home grown tomato taste. Exterior: Lush pink skin with green shoulders and cracking.
Brandywine Yellow A rich-tasting tomato and is one of the most beautiful heirloom tomatoes because of it’s shape, size smoothness. Flavor Profile: Creamy and rich sweet flavor. Exterior: Bright yellow with interesting form.
Cherokee Purple The Cherokee Purple was originally grown by the Cherokees and has been popular for over 100 years. Flavor Profile: Initial smoky flavor with a slightly sweet aftertaste. Exterior: More round with a dark red skin accented in darker purple or black.
Gold Medal The Gold Medal variety is popular for its appealing taste and look originating from the Black Forest region of Germany. Flavor Profile: Rich, juicy, super sweet flavor that is low in acid. Exterior: Classic heirloom look with a unique pink and yellow marbled color.
Green Zebra One of the most visually appealing tomatoes available, with light-green stripes against an amber background at maturity. Its flesh is neon-green, and mature fruits are slightly bigger than a ping-pong ball. Flavor Profile: Zesty sweet taste. Exterior: Green stripes on a greenish-yellow background, interior is pale green.
Chocolate Stripe Very large and very prolific tomato with dark red color and green striping at maturity and a nice red interior. Flavor Profile: Complex sweet earthy flavor. Exterior: Gorgeous mahogany color with dark green stripes.