Summer’s Greatest Gem: The Heirloom Tomato

Like ice cream and snow cones for some, one of the true great pleasure foods of summer for me is the heirloom tomato.  I can honestly say that I could eat them each day, three times a day, for the duration of their season, and never grow tired of their truly unique, rich, and old-fashioned flavor.  I love our heirloom tomatoes.

When our first heirloom ripens on the farm, it is to us farmers as Bastille Day is the French or St. Patrick’s Day to the Irish.  Needless to say, it is a day of great exuberance and celebration.  The cherished tomato is plucked from the vine and coddled as a newborn would be.  However, humor aside, our heirloom tomatoes at Aspen Moon Farm are treated with such tender love and care, it is not surprising at all how memorable they are.  This year, within our hoophouse (non-temperature controlled tunnel covered with polyethylene) alone we are growing ten varieties of heirloom tomatoes all of which are hand-pruned and cared for on a weekly basis.  The plants were seeded in mid-February, started in our greenhouse, and then transplanted in late April to the hoophouse.  The hoophouse, in which our tomatoes reside, is new this year, and, for this reason, the soil was supplemented with farm compost twice prior to our transplanting.  Since then, the plants have been “fed” traditional biodynamic preparations of barrel compost, equisetum, comfrey nettle tea, and kelp.  The plants were covered by “miniature plastic hoophouses” in order to survive our May 1st snow storm and came along all the stronger to be what we think is our best tomato crop yet.

Many ask what exactly is an heirloom?  Heirloom tomatoes are non-genetically modified, open-pollinated varieties that have a superior flavor to those varieties that have been hybridized.  Some will also add that a true heirloom is one whose seed has been in circulation for 50 years or that has been open-pollinated since before 1940.  Either way, these are tomatoes that have been grown for ages for flavor, not aesthetics, have a slightly shorter shelf life, and certainly tend to be more temperamental to grow.  At Aspen Moon, we also have heirloom tomatoes planted in our field, many of the same varieties that are found in our hoophouse – Brandywine, Prudens Purple, Cherokee Purple, Paul Robeson, Pineapple, Valencia, Black Prince, and Black Krim.   The flavor difference is negligible.

Any way you slice it, these are the finest gems of summer.  No recipe needed.  Enjoy them as they are, sliced, sprinkled with sea salt.  Period.

Also included in this week’s CSA share (varies depending on pick-up location):

Arugula or spicy greens mix

Kale or cabbage

Onion or basil

Summer squash, eggplant, sweet peppers, or cucumbers

New potatoes

Celery

Carrots

Snap beans or beets

 

 

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