Tomatoes have been abused. Like other widely utilized fruits and vegetables, they were bound to lose a little bit of their integrity as production increased. With so many fruits and vegetables available during any season, we’ve gotten used the bland, hybridized taste. But a carrot is not a carrot. After buying baby carrots I was shocked to uncover the flavor underneath the peel of a true, out of the earth carrot. The first time I had a strawberry from the farm near my house, I nearly cried. I saw Jesus. I figured out the meaning of life. I started yelling ecstatically in Spanish, and I don’t know Spanish. It was that good that I’d curse about it but I don’t know if that is kosher by PWN standards.
The point is that tomatoes tend to fall in one of the top spots on eater’s dislike list, and I can understand why. That scarlet red, perfectly round tomato from the grocery store that ends up sliced into mealy, tasteless wedges systematically tossed onto salads or slapped onto sandwiches is no all-star. I could never eat one of these tomatoes plain unless I had copious amounts of mozzarella or ranch dressing. This kind of tomato is the American cheese of cheeses, the baby carrot of carrots, the iceberg lettuce of salads. It is “roughing it” in the food sense. They can work for convenience, but when it counts… people please, hold yourself to higher standards!
The Cadillac of tomatoes I’ve come to worship is the heirloom tomato. I reckon even a tomato-hater could eat a salted wedge of an heirloom and pronounce it delicious. I generally mistrust people that eat tomatoes like apples (or string cheese like hot dogs, for that matter) but the taste profile here is so much greater that I actually may acquiesce.
To be classified as heirloom, a plant must be “open pollinated” meaning its seeds will produce plants similar to the parent. While that sounds obvious, the truth is that many typical grocery store bought tomatoes are intentionally bred to be sterile so that consumers must continue to buy seeds every year. That means when you give little Jimmy down the street a tomato to plant and grow his own tomato vine, Jimmy is going to be sorely disappointed when it never comes to fruition. And likely buy his own hybridized tomatoes to throw at your house if he’s anything like the little Jimmy that lived on my street.
Heirloom seeds can be saved and passed around, and cannot be patented like hybrids and GMOs. Some have really awesome Indian names like Cherokee Purple or Fast Horse. Okay, fast horse was actually my Indian name in kindergarten. But Black Bear and Goliath are other actual varietal names.
Hotcha Hotcha, lookin good
You’ve probably seen these oddly shaped and colored beauties at the farmers market or seasonally in grocery stores. With their varying shapes and different washes and fades of color they look like works of art. I willingly admit to having photographed them to be my phone background. I will not as willingly admit to the altercation I got into when I overheard two women calling them ugly tomatoes at the farmers market, when clearly the only thing ugly was their ignorance of food politics.
Look kids it’s heaven! Or an heirloom tomato tasting.
There are other heirloom plants besides tomatoes. Some examples include certain beans, blue corn, and Forbidden rice (which is the crazy black rice that does actually get sold under that name).
We end this broadcast with…tomato fight!!!