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Monday, September 10, 2007

Heirloom Tomatoes

A photographer friend, Bill and I routinely visit the farmers market at Union Square (click here for any of 6 previous posts: Union Square, Flora, Union Square Greenmarket, Luna Park Cafe, Metronome, and the fascinating story of Joe Ades - Genteleman Peeler). Bill has done a tremendous amount of fine work photographing fruit (click here). He has spoken of heirloom tomatoes often, yet I only first tried them recently at the Union Square Cafe - they make an amazing Heirloom salad appetizer. Subsequently on a visit to the farmer's market at Tompkins Square, I finally purchased my first heirloom tomato - and ate it. Heirloom tomatoes are hugely popular in the city right now and this trend is for good reason. You only have to taste one to see how much flavor we have lost to the products of agribusiness and modern commercial farming. The definition of heirloom tomatoes varies somewhat. Some use age of seed strain (50 to 100 years or older), others may use pre-World War II as a demarcation point. But in the most literal sense, heirloom tomatoes are ones where the cultivar has been nurtured and handed down from generation to generation. It is also generally agreed that they are open-pollinated and with no genetically modified organisms used. There are hundreds of varieties with names like Mortgage Lifter, Green Grape, Cherokee Purple, Green Zebra, Black Krim, Brandywine, White Wonder, Amish Paste, Stupice, etc. (click here for a sample list). If you have not had an heirloom tomato before, I highly recommend you get yourself to a good farmer's market as soon as possible and buy at least one. No need to prepare it, just eat it like any fruit with reckless abandon - watch the juice running down your arm ...
Note about the photo: this was taken yesterday at the farmers market (Norwich Meadows Farms stand) at Tompkins Square Park while attending the Howl festival - the subject of another posting this week.

9 comments:

Kate said...

The photograph beautifully illustrates the delectable vegetables. It's a fine time of year for good eating.

Brian said...

kate;
It's true - I hope you have had some of these.

Lucy said...

Nice photo. Really must do some fruit and veg shopping while the going is this good...plus the heirloom quality is really appealling as an idea and practice.

Jeremy said...

I agree ... the most common tomato downunder 50 years ago was "beefsteak" .. lots of flavour, held together well when sliced .. however now one has to hunt real hard to find them in the stores. We have been inundated with nice even looking tomatoes that keep well and taste like NOTHING !! at least we still have our Watties (NZ tomato sauce ... now produced by Heinz !!) .. ciao

An Honest Man said...

The Clyde Valley where I grew up used to have what seemed like hundreds of tomato growers - now none.

It gets harder and harder to find tomatoes with any taste at all.

We can still find beafsteak tomatoes in size, but without the flavour.

[and this isn't just an old codger harping back to how good things were in his day!]

Brian, you could have been taking this photograph for a food magazine - excellent quality.

Keropok Man said...

The tomatoes look unique!

Do they taste good too?

Brian said...

These tomatoes are remarkable tasting to me.

• Eliane • said...

First they look so beautiful and have all kind of interesting colors. Second, they taste like real tomatoes.
Most of the tomatoes we buy in supermarkets back home in Belgium come from The Netherlands. They have mastered the "out of soil" cultures (soil less?). The result is tomatoes that look perfect bt are tasteless. Now the heirloom, that's league of its own right there.

Rambling Round said...

Want tomatoes? You've got 'em here! Some are just huge!