Friday, August 13, 2010

Heirloom Tomatoes

It's official, I am addicted to summer. Very addicted. It's a problem. When it is a bagillion degrees out and everyone's freaking out because walking down the street barely seems feasible, there I am standing in the sun and wondering what the big deal is. On the flip side it's even more of a problem when I am indoors with air conditioners blowing at minus a bagillion degrees and everyone's final happy, except for me. Me? I am sitting there with full length pants and sweater, shivering and wondering what the hell is wrong with these people. Clearly, I have temperature issues. However, regardless of these minor frustrations along the way, summer just rocks, especially when squash, corn and heirloom tomatoes are beyond plentiful.
heirloom tomatoes slices
Of the summer harvest, heirloom tomatoes are without a doubt my favorites. Heirloom tomatoes fall into that cliche category of vegetables (ok, fruits) that, when bought in season, make you wonder why you ever buy those things that look like tomatoes when they're not in season. Every August, when those first sweet, juicy slices of almost technicolor tomatoes make their way onto my plate, I ask myself that question. Then as I take my first bite, I stop thinking and start enjoying, because needless to say these babies won't be around all year.
heirloom tomatoes basket

In my experience, the only problem with heirloom tomatoes is choosing them. So often they are marred with blemishes and cracks, that make them seem like they aren't 'good' when really that's how they should look. So, to make sure everyone is on the same page, I would like to offer a few heirloom tomato purchasing tips. First, check out the color, usually the most flavorful ones are rich in color, like I said, almost technicolor. There is one exception to this. There are certain varieties, like Great Whites, that are super flavorful despite their duller color, for these focus on the other factors. When choosing, you want the tomatoes to feel firm, but not hard. Lastly, those cracks I mentioned. Some cracks are expected and normal, however you don't want them to be so deep or wide that they ruin the integrity of the tomato. What I usually do is picture what it would look like if I sliced it. If, given the cracks, the slices would still look like something want to eat then I will usually take it. Like with most things, it is the imperfections that give these their flavor, so don't waste your time looking for the most perfect ones.
heirloom tomatoes slices
So, aside from eating them, what do I like to do with these morsels of imperfect perfection? Although I have seen millions of recipes calling for heirloom tomatoes, my philosophy is; why bother? I think it's just ruining something that's perfect on its own. I just slice them, sprinkle them with coarse salt and sometimes add a touch of balsamic. I assure you, when they're good, you won't want them any other way.


Patrizia said...

Having spent lots of summers in Sicily, I always swore by Southern italian tomatoes, however after experiencing the US Northeast ones, the italians are a very far behind second
Who would have guessed ?
Certainly not me