The heirloom tomato season is in full swing! It was off to a late start compared to last year because of cold weather we had back in December. You may remember that some varieties died from freezing cold temperatures. Those that survived were dormant for a while, just hanging out, getting their energy back. Now comes the explosion of tomatoes unlike anything you will find at most stores. Farmer Margie calls it madness and it is best kind, a wild madness of colors, shapes, textures and flavors — especially the flavors!
Heirloom tomatoes are the jewels of the vegetable kingdom. They come in all different colors — yellow, orange, rose, pink, red and black, which really are deep red veering into shades of brown and purple. Green tomatoes are a bit tricky. They stay green (with either a pale blush or golden hue) when they are ripe, and have a bit of lemony tartness along with their tomato flavor. If you look carefully, some red ones have golden flecks and others have stripes. Yellows and oranges are sweeter, less acidic. A new discovery this year is garden peach — a yellow tomato that is fuzzy like a peach, thus the name.
Margie is raising about 60 varieties this year and I’ve learned some of them by name. The ones I recognize are: cherokee purple, green zebra, Matt’s wild cherry (great for snacking), the pleated and ruffly Costoluto Genovese, sun gold, lemon drop, brown berry and black cherry (almost identical), red zebra, zapotec pleated, and podland pink.
You can save the seeds from your favorite kinds, plant them next season and grow the exact same thing you ate. That’s because heirloom vegetables are open pollinated, meaning they keep their traits from one generation to the next, unlike hybrids. Farmers and gardeners saved seeds of the varieties they liked over the generations. Just think, people grew and ate hundreds of different kinds of tomatoes, not three or four kinds we find in stores today. Each heirloom tomato variety is unique and valued for its ability to fight off disease and insects, or adapt to growing conditions, and of course, have an excellent flavor.
I’m partial to Matt’s wild cherry, lemon drop, brown berry, sun gold and green zebra. Which varieties are your favorites?