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. 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.
Heirloom tomatoes have a fantastic flavor and juicy texture that adds so much to summer meals. 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.
Each variety is truly unique, exhibiting a special taste, color, texture or shape. They are ideally suited to being grown by the small farmer living close to their end market. Many varieties do not travel well because of their thin skins and have a shorter shelf life than conventional tomatoes. Types include Brandywine (pinkish red), Cherokee Purple (deep reddish-purple), Green Zebra (striped light and dark green), Jubilee (yellow), and German Green (green and red). In addition to the 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 are 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. Or try this heirloom tomato gratin for a very delicious side dish. Enjoy!
Common Heirloom Tomato Varieties
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.
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.
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.
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.