Sunday, August 28, 2011

Attack of these Killer Tomatoes


But seriously, these are killer tomatoes and so many different varieties too, even without including the life-changing Sungolds that may or may not be a large part of my reason to leave Rockefeller Plaza for the Rockefeller Estate.  Before we slice into the names and flavors of this year's colorful crew, let's discuss what defines an heirloom variety, a term so often flaunted around at summer markets.  Unfortunately this term, although commonly used to describe specifically bred vegetables, is missing one standard and widely-accepted...

definition.  Although there are many schools of thought on the actual definition, there seem to be enough common themes to pretend we understand.  Simply put, an heirloom seed is a seed that is saved to be passed on from growing season to growing season in it's true form.  The "true" part means it is a pure breed, one that has not been cross-pollinated with any other and therefore not a hybrid variety.  Hybrids are a crossbreed between two different plants that are selected for certain strong characteristics and are cross-pollinated for desirable characteristics from multiple seeds whereas heirlooms are specifically saved for their natural characteristics, intriguing enough to put in the work.  Hybrid's are also generally unable to reproduce that same variety in the next generation whereas the heirlooms do specifically's science. To get even more specific yet debatable, it is widely accepted that heirlooms must have been saved for at least 50 years or have been passed down a at least a few generations depending on who you speak to and what book you read.  Either way, we know that heirlooms tend to be unique varieties that were selected for someone's specific enjoyment of one particular fruit's characteristics.  Maybe a special color variation, flavor, texture, shape, size, adversity to splitting, anything that may be intriguing enough to save the seed.  So now that we got all that sorted out...sort of, I now present to you the Stone Barns Field tomato class of summer 2011:

Green Zebra - Here's a good one to start with because Green Zebras are considered heirlooms in some circles but not others, either way it's really delicious.  A small to mid-sized tomato with this beautiful green and yellow coloring.  Although green tomatoes are generally a sign of immaturity, these are perfectly ripe and have a nice sturdy structure, great for slicing and dicing.  A slightly tart flavor, I like them as a nice twist in a good chunky salsa mix.
Green Zebra

Mountain Magic - Although small, these tomatoes back a punch of juicy flavor.  As a hybrid, they have been bred particularly for their disease resistance to some of tomatoes biggest threats, early blight, late blight and fruit cracking.  I literally just thinly sliced these with some fresh mozzarella, can't think of anything better to do with them. 

Mountain Magic
 Striped German - Although a mammoth of a tomato, this one in particular weighing in at around 1.9 lb, Striped German is a great, juicy, flavor packed with fruitiness and these may very well be my favorite, but that could be once you slice them it's a beautiful array of colors.

Striped German

Valencia - The most orange tomato I've ever seen and perhaps the best of the year as well.  A very juicy tomato that was very juicy, I wouldn't try to dice this one or even add anything to it, perfect just the way it is.

Valencia - Yes, like the Orange
 Black Krim - The original, the dealbreaker for me.  After years of being one of those I don't like tomatoes people, tasting a Juicy thick sliced Black Krim made me a convert for life.  I'm officially on the tomato wagon.

Black Krim

Great White -  Another large, but firm tomato.  Sweet flavor, but not too juicy so it can be cut small or large.
Great White

Don't forget, the best way to store your tomatoes is upside down on their "shoulders."  The shoulders are where the most rigid portion of the tomato is located, right near the stem.  By storing them this way, you will ensure a longer shelf life because if they are left on their softer bottom, gravity ends up squashing the tomato causing it to split and leak.

As you may have noticed, a lot of tomatoes at your local markets and supermarkets are being displayed as "heirlooms" and it's important to ask your farmer if you would like to know the real story behind your tomatoes' seed.  Another great reason why local green markets are a great resource, ask questions.  Who better to get your information from than the farmers themselves.  That is the main advantage, don't just assume that a local producer is doing anything organic or chemical free even if they are just a farm stand,  ask, ask, ask it only takes a second.  We have so much trouble with our supermarket produce because we can't look directly into the producers eyes and hear their story.  It's much easier to lie to someone if they never have to see you than if you get to talk to them face to face, but not too close.


  1. great post. I learned soon much! amazing!! i want to be a convert too!!

  2. I already am a convert. I always wondered why many restaurants serve heirloom tomotoes and they just don't taste good. Now I know what to ask for.