An heirloom tomato is open-pollinated, which means non-hybridized. Since most are self-pollinating, seed saving is very easy. At New Morning Farm, we've been selecting for late-blight resistant Brandywines. We grow 7 different varieties of heirlooms; including 2 reds, 3 yellows, and 2 zebra-striped. This year, we're trying Black Krim to see how it compares to Cherokee Purple (which is delicious but prone to cracking). There are four succession plantings to ensure optimal harvests for a longer period. This is especially important for heirloom tomatoes, because they are more prone to disease.
Harvesting happens twice a week, since heirlooms ripen faster and have a shorter shelf-life than hybridized varieties. The tomatoes are sorted after each harvest and stored at about 50 F degrees.
Heirloom harvest is like a treasure hunt through rows and rows of tall, leafy plants. You search and search under the leaves, hoping to see a hint of color shining through. Some of the tomatoes grow so large, especially the Striped German variety, that you have to carefully maneuver it out with both hands, taking care not to bruise or damage it in any way.
If you aren't sure which tomato to try, read The Great Tomato Hunt in NY Magazine, then come to market and do your own taste test! There are some general flavor guidelines: yellow tomatoes have less acid, and the green zebras are more tangy than the red. Pink tomatoes (the Brandywines) are a soft tomato in texture, as is the Persimmon (lighter yellow) variety, while the Valencia is more firm (darker yellow, closer to orange in color).
Speaking of tomatoes, our super sweet and delicious sungold cherry tomatoes got a great shout-out in the Washington Best Bites blog. One of the writers, Anna Spiegel, said our sungolds were the best thing she'd eaten all week! She bought a pint at our Dupont Market one Sunday, and then:
After a jag of dining out almost every night for two weeks, either socially or for work (and the occasional Chinese takeout in between), I finally had a free Sunday evening, and knew exactly what I wanted to cook: pasta with sungold tomatoes. This is my go-to dish of summer. I can satisfy almost any other craving year-round with a trip to the grocery store (strawberry shortcake in January? Why not?). But this simple pasta dish—a toss of ripe, sweet tomatoes blistered in a hot pan, shaved garlic, basil, and a sprinkle of breadcrumbs for crunch—relies wholly on summer bounty. The organically grown sungolds from New Morning Farm are the best around, and the stand is overflowing with pints of the bright fruits through the season. The only change I make to Mario Batali’s recipe is to add more tomatoes for ample amounts of sauce (and using quality olive oil never hurts).
We love hearing reviews like this because we love what we do and we hope you are all loving it that much too!
In other news, now that it's August, fall planting has begun: kale, cauliflower, broccoli, and more are growing strong in our fields. Soon we'll be seeding spinach and the root crops to take us through the winter. We're thinking a lot about what to put in our new tunnel (construction starting soon!). We are still enjoying this cool weather, but we are all crossing our fingers for rain. The overhead team is getting worn out from irrigating every day, and now, driving around the farm is like cruising through the desert based on how much dust gets kicked up! But it's all good: the cool, dry weather is great for tomatoes, great for lettuce, and great for our hard-working employees!
Saturday market this week will see the first of the free-stone peaches, lots of plums and donut peaches, many varieties of eggplants and peppers, and several types of watermelons! Plus cantaloupes, colorful potatoes, super fresh green beans, lots of lettuce (including some beautiful red leaf!), rainbow chard, and more!
Roasted Heirloom Tomato Soup with Goat Cheese and Basil Cream (adapted from www.cuesa.org)
Serves 8-10 (party time!)
10 lbs heirloom tomatoes (I like to use a variety of heirlooms for a full-bodied taste), seeded and chopped
12 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 very large sweet onion, peeled and cut into eighths
4 cayenne peppers, cut in half and seeded (seeding optional, leave seeds if you like heat)
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tbsp fresh thyme
3 tbsp fresh oregano
2 tbsp fresh summer savory
salt and coarse black pepper to taste
Goat Cheese Basil Cream
4 oz goat cheese, crumbled
1/2 pint heavy cream
1 cup loosely packed basil leaves,
chopped salt and coarse black pepper to taste.
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place tomatoes, garlic, onion, and peppers in roasting pans and cover with the olive oil. Roast for 1 hour.
2. Remove from oven and let cool.
3. In the meantime prepare the goat cheese basil cream. Place the goat cheese in a food processor with the basil and add the cream until desired consistency. I like mine to be a little on the thick side so it can be spread on olive loaf toast (pairs very well with the soup and cream). Season to taste and clean food processor.
4. After the soup has cooled a little, blend with an immersion blender or in a food processor. Transfer blended soup to a large pot and add herbs. Heat over medium heat and stir occasionally. Let the soup come to a rolling boil then turn off heat.
5. Serve soup in bowls and dollop the cream in the middle. I suggest serving with large croutons, preferably from our olive loaves you can find at Saturday market. Yum!
Olive Loaf Croutons
1 olive loaf, cut into 1/2 in slices
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and black pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 400
2. Place bread on a baking sheet and brush with the oil.
3. Place in oven and toast for 4 minutes on each side, checking not to burn.
4. Toss with salt and pepper if needed!
Interested in a controversial heirloom tomato article? The Case Against Heirloom Tomatoes
Awesome Farmers Market Recipe Generator from, of course, Mark Bittman!