One of my favorite things about summer is the myraid of heirloom tomatoes that come into season. I am sadly reminded that so many people have only seen large red tomatoes at the grocery store and don’t know about the beautiful heirloom varieties. So I’m here to help you with a simple guide to identifying heirloom tomatoes.
Definition: 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.
In the past 40 years, we’ve lost many of our heirloom varieties, along with the many smaller family farms that supported heirlooms. The multitude of heirlooms that had adapted to survive well for hundreds of years were lost or replaced by fewer hybrid tomatoes, bred for their commercially attractive characteristics. (sourced from Tomato Fest)
Probably the most popular heirloom variety, the Brandywine is legendary for its exceptionally rich, succulent tomato flavor. Fruits are reddish-pink, with light, creamy flesh that average 12 ounces but can grow to 2 pounds.
It was one of the first of the “black” color group of tomatoes. It is also unusual in being extremely popular for the sake of its flavor, instead of only its unusual color. Extremely sweet with low seed count, it’s taste says to rival the Brandywine.
This variety has swirls of green, red, orange and yellow. It has a mild, sweet and low-acid flavor, with a skin as thick as an apple’s. Great for slicing thick into sandwiches or salads.
Black Crimson Tomato: (or Black Krim)
This rare, and outstanding tomato yields 3-4″ slightly flattened dark-red (mahogany-colored) slightly maroon, beefsteak tomatoes with deep green shoulders. Fantastic, intense, and slightly salty taste.
A variety of the Cherokee Purple tomato,this is one of the best tasting, most complex flavored of all the green tomatoes. It is a green-fleshed fruit blushed with amber at the blossom end.
Deliciously flavorful with overtones of tropical fruit and subtle hints of lime. Firm, juicy and elegant in the mouth, and jewel-like in appearance with subtle red striping. Flavor is a little more tart than sweet.
Beautiful, golden-orange tomatoes have one of the best flavors of all orange tomatoes. Rose-orange (persimmon colored) fruits range from 12-ounces to 2 pounds. Meaty, very sweet, and few seeds.
Large yellow-orange fruits are streaked with ruby red and have a sweet, fruity taste that is absolutely delicious. A gardener’s favorite for it’s size, beauty and taste.
Dark purple to black, oblong-shaped tomatoes are meaty and quite delicious, with that special rich flavor characteristic of black tomatoes. These are popular because of their blemish free skin.
This Russian heirloom has a delicious blend of sugar and acid and a distinctive, complex flavor that is to be savored. Some folks say this variety is one of the best-tasting black tomatoes and prefer it also for its nice, medium size.
Whatever tomato you come across at your local Farmers’ Market – take a risk and get a few varieties. These tomatoes are delicious enough to eat like an apple, make an outstanding red sauce, or a delicious salad.
Marinated Tomato Salad by Sunset
Heirloom Tomato Panzanella by Michael Chiarello
Heirloom Tomato Tart by Gourmet