I think we are all accustomed to tomatoes from the grocery store, and their lack of flavor through the winter. Those of us living in the northern states where there is no hope of better quality in the winter just have to make do with what is available. But come springtime, we have some hope of better things come summer. Last spring I decided to plant some heirloom tomatoes. I had packets I found locally for Cherokee Purple and Green Zebra. I had absolutely no idea what they would be like, what to expect for size, or even how to tell when they were ripe. As I could finally get the little seedlings planted outdoors in late May, I also went to a local nursery and found another variety of heirloom called Old German. I now had three varieties of tomato I had never tried growing in my herb and tomato bed. |
Understanding that I live pretty far north, with a very short growing season, I thought that starting the seeds in April would be soon enough. As it turned out it was not. My plants had barely started bearing fruit when we had our first frost. I still got quite a few good tomatoes, and all through September I had more than adequate to eat them 3 times a day. This coming year I intend to start the seeds in February.
I could not wait to try my heirloom tomatoes. As it turned out, it was a long wait. The heirloom varieties are not hybridized to bloom and bear fruit early in the season. All of these took a long time to reach a point of bearing fruit at all. The wait was all worthwhile, because the first time I tasted some of these tomatoes, I nearly floated off my chair in ecstasy, like in cartoons. The flavors were absolutely incredible. The tomatoes themselves were beautiful to behold.
Cherokee Purple Heirlooms
The Cherokee Purple variety was the first to actually set fruit. As I said, I had no idea what to expect for size, or what color they should be when ripe, but I kept watch. This variety bore a very nice medium size tomato, a rather dull purple red in color on the outside, and inside were a deep, dark purple red. The flavor was warm and fruity, with an almost berry like flavor.
Green Zebra Heirlooms
The next to set fruit, though very few, was the Green Zebra. This variety turned out to be a very small tomato. They were about the circumference of the Campari Tomatoes in the grocery stores, but elongated and oval. The skin was a lovely bright green with dark green stripes and striations. As they ripened fully there was just a tinge of gold to the green skin. Inside, they were a beautiful bright kiwi green color and the flavor had a definite taste of ripe plums.
Old German Heirlooms
The Old German variety was the slowest to bear fruit. I was afraid I might get none at all as we inched closer to fall and the weather got more erratic. Some few did manage to set fruit and grow, though I ultimately had to pick them still green to ripen indoors as the frost was getting too severe to leave them outdoors anymore. Even though picked green, they ripened well in a sunny window and still had a most amazingly full flavor. I only wish I might have had the ability to taste one totally vine ripened, but perhaps this coming year. As for flavor, I could not distinguish any other flavor in this variety. They tasted like some of the best tomatoes I could imagine. The color was just beautiful. They ripened mostly yellow, but with a pink to red colored blush on some, while others had a starburst red pattern on the bottom of the tomato, which carried through on the insides when cut.
Growing and tasting these heirloom varieties for the first time was marvelous, and makes me hungry to repeat the experience. I saved seeds from these tomatoes, and hope to get an earlier start this coming year. If at all possible, I will hunt for other heirloom varieties and continue learning about the wonderful variety and flavor to be had.
Thank you for taking the time to read my article. I hope it was informative and helped you along your own culinary journey. Visit my Web site A Harmony of Flavors my Blog at A Harmony of Flavors Blog my Marketplace A Harmony of Flavors Marketplace or Facebook page, A Harmony of Flavors. I hope to see you there soon.
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