There is nothing quite like the taste of a fresh homegrown tomato.
They make for the perfect summer sandwich: a colorful, juicy slice hanging off the sides of the bread, a smear of Duke’s mayonnaise, and a light sprinkling of salt and pepper.
Though quite simply, heirloom tomatoes trump hybrid varieties. Their flavor justifies the French term for tomato, pomme d’amour – literally translated to “love apple.”
The window of time for growing heirloom tomatoes is quite small. So when they’re in season, we preserve every delicious drop in salsas, soups, sauces, and juices. While some people are fine with selecting beautiful hybrid plants from greenhouses, true tomato aficionados are only satisfied with heirlooms.
Most plants have the potential to be designated heirloom. This is loosely defined as those plants grown by generations of gardeners, whose saved seeds produce plants with consistent traits. But heirloom tomatoes offer an intense flavor that put them in a class of their own.
Easily bruised, heirloom tomatoes’ brief shelf life is why they are rarely included in supermarket produce aisles. The average grocery customers expect perfectly shaped, unblemished, red tomatoes.
Heirloom tomatoes, which come in hundreds of varieties, are perfect for the organic garden though. Some of our family favorites include: Green Zebra, prized for high salt content; Cream Sausage, an unimpressive white paste tomato that transforms into true tomato taste when processed; Amish Paste, a rock star in salsa and sauces; and tiny Sungolds, which are pure edible sunshine.
Heirloom tomatoes need special attention to produce optimally and avoid blight and blossom end rot. Try this nutritional cocktail when planting heirloom seedlings. Note: Throughout the year, save eggshells from free-range, organically raised poultry.
For each plant, dig a hole, approximately ten inches deep and eight inches wide. Add the following:
- ½ cup crushed eggshells (calcium)
- 1 tablespoon organic bone meal (phosphorus)
- 1 tablespoon Epsom Salt (potassium)
- 1 scoop compost (homemade, if possible)
Use hands to work ingredients into garden soil, as if kneading bread dough. Place plant deeply, covering roots and most of stem with soil. Water well and surround plant with thick layer of newspaper to keep moisture in soil and lessen weed attacks. As plants grow, use stakes or wire cages for stability.
Whether you grow heirloom tomatoes or purchase at a local farmers market, take advantage of the summer months to enjoy this seasonal fruit. We’ll be dreaming of them come winter.
Fresh Heirloom Tomato Salad Recipe
For each serving, slice 6 to 8 cherry tomatoes in half and place in large bowl. Add ¼ to ½ cup bite-sized pieces of fresh mozzarella cheese. For each serving, add 1-teaspoon balsamic or herbed vinegar and 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Add 1 to 2 large snipped fresh basil leaves for each serving and leaves from 1 stem of fresh thyme. (Note: Hold top end of thyme with one hand and strip leaves by pulling down the stem with your other hand. Discard the woody stem.)
Stir or toss until blended. For a crunch, add a few toasted and chopped walnuts just before serving.
About the author:
Cindy Barlow, a retired public school librarian, now devotes her time to writing and organic farming. She primarily grows her grandmothers’ saved seeds, which were passed down after spending years in her mother’s freezer. She is currently writing a book about organic gardening and her heirloom seed experiences. She also loves to create and share dishes that use beautiful chemical-free produce. For more of her articles and seasonal recipes, visit seedtales.com and watch her videos on YouTube.