Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Heirloom Tomatoes

I started planting heirloom tomatoes in my garden just a few years ago and have never looked back. No, they’re not going to win any conventional beauty contests, but like regular garden tomatoes, their taste is far superior to any perfectly round, plump red tomato you’ll find in your neighborhood grocery store.

An heirloom is an open-pollinated or naturally-pollinated (non-hybrid) cultivar of tomato which dates back to the early 50's when people saved their seeds each year for next year's crop.  They look odd and deformed but taste amazing. I like to call them the Steve Buscemi of Tomatoes because they’re “kinda funny-lookin’” but outperform their contemporaries. There are hundreds, even thousands of different varieties each with their own unique color, taste and shape. I also love the names: Green Zebra, Mr. Stripey and Purple Russian to list a few.

two purple cherokees and one brandywine

Tomatoes are loaded with antioxidants, dietary fiber and vitamins, and they’re naturally low in calories. When cooked, their antioxidant (lycopene) content increases which can help protect you from certain cancers and also give your skin a healthy, youthful glow; but they are still loaded with health benefits when eaten raw. And, I recently read that tomatoes are an aphrodisiac which might be the reason behind that healthy glow.

Heirloom or not, if you grow your own tomatoes or buy them at a farmer’s market, you know how amazing they taste with little or no enhancement. Their intense flavor can stop you in your tracks. I like them naked, or with a simple dusting of sea salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Here I have some with goat cheese and basil….

 And here they are made into a pizza…

Enjoy your fresh garden or farmer’s market tomatoes now….in a month or so they’ll be a distant, fond memory, but something to look forward to next summer for sure.

"The Greatest Wealth is Health" - Roman Poet Virgil

"Let Food be thy Medicine and Medicine be thy Food." - Hippocrates

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