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Market Haul

Market Haul: Heirloom Tomatoes

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Heirloom tomatoes are bursting with flavor and come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and colors.

One of the first lessons we learn in school is not to judge a book by its cover. Think of this mantra next time you go to the farmers' market and come across a batch of heirloom tomatoes.

The term "heirloom" means that the tomato comes from seeds that have been passed down through generations of gardeners and farmers. Heirlooms don't have the uniformity of size, shape, color, or flavor that come with other types of tomatoes; each one is unique. Colors range from purple and red to green, yellow and orange, and they are often some of the most deliciously flavorful tomatoes you'll ever eat.

How to choose them
Heirloom tomatoes come in all shapes and sizes, which is part of what makes them so appealing. However, this inconsistency also makes it tricky to know exactly what to look for when you reach into the tomato bin. Make sure the tomatoes you choose are not too soft, which can indicate that they are overripe. Also avoid choosing tomatoes that have cracks in the skin.

How to use them
Since they are so tasty and beautiful, I prefer to eat and serve heirloom tomatoes raw. I use them in refreshing salads all summer long. For starters, cut some tomatoes into wedges and toss them with a simple homemade dressing. You can also use them in a panzanella salad or create a vibrant tomato, mozzarella, and basil dish. And of course, heirlooms are a fantastic option for any recipe that calls for tomatoes.

How to store them
Heirloom tomatoes generally have a shorter shelf life than other type of tomatoes. Store them at room temperature out of direct sunlight, and plan to use them within a week.

Ela Family Farms
Better Homes and Gardens

What are your favorite ways to eat and cook heirloom tomatoes? Share your thoughts and recipes below.

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About the Author
Amy Gordon
Amy Gordon
Amy Gordon is a Wharton graduate who prefers flip flops to business suits. She writes about travel, food, wellness, and social consciousness. more
  • Debra B. 5 years ago
    As a Caprese Salad. Slice tomato in 1/4 to 1/2" slice. then place a slice of fresh mozzarella cheese on top. Drizzle with good olive oil, balsalmic vinegar, sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Lastly, put a few fresh basil leaves on top. can chill or eat right away. Yum! We eat these all summer long and grow our own heirloom tomatoes and basil too!
  • Bonnie K. 5 years ago
    take the tomatoes slice them ,take 1 clove garlic and shred it, take 1/4 onion and cut fine ,tear about 5 basil leaves into pieces .then make a dressing of 1 teaspoon sugar, 2 shakes of Italian seasoning ( dry) 1 tablespoon olive oil or garlic olive oil, 1/4 cup of Balsamic vinegar ....mix well add to the tomatoes. stir well .let sit for 1/2 hours then add a small bit of parm cheese and serve warm. IT IS THE BOMB very very good with cherry tomatoes ..its the best tomato salad i've had
  • Donna C. 5 years ago
    I like them sliced, with a little S&P and drizzle of EVOO. Yum!