For me, the prize out of our kitchen garden each summer is always heirloom tomatoes. In the spring I plant as many different types as I can, and baby them along through August. I seek out tomato plants I have read about, tomato plants that have funny names, tomato plants that bear certain tomato colors, and even tomato plants with a story behind them.
Heirloom tomatoes have so much color and character. They have fun names like Mortgage Lifter, Green Zebra, Mr. Stripey, Purple Cherokee, Pineapple, and Abe Lincoln, to name a few. Heirloom tomato names rival in stature the gifted quirky race horses names we all love like Dolly Daggers, Platinum Stiletto, Wink and Nod, Bling Star Dream, and Six Pack Abs, (borrowing a few horse names running at the Del Mar Race Track this season).
Heirloom tomatoes have longevity, these seeds have been passed down from generation to another, and with their genetics intact. They come in a rainbow of colors, and at first glance, an heirloom tomato is usually never perfect, but characteristically funny with bumps, creases, and what some people might call blemishes. I call them perfect, and absolutely heaven to your taste buds.
Heirloom tomatoes are so perfect in taste, slicing and adding a pinch of sea salt is all you need. If you would like to go a step further, slice fresh heirloom tomatoes, place on top of sliced fresh mozzarella cheese, add a few leaves of your summer basil from your garden, and lightly drizzle fabulous fig vinegar on top. Delicious. Of course, heirloom tomatoes are a cook's bonus to summer pasta, pizza, salsas, sauces, as well
Some of my heirloom tomato plants do not always grow well for me. I am the first to admit, living close to the Pacific coast might make me tomato-challenged. But I have persevered, and now our heirloom tomato harvest is usually abundant.
The last two years I have tried growing the "Julia Child" heirloom tomato, and with no luck. The plant grows, but does not produce many tomatoes. Yes, besides a rose, and probably many other unknown treasures to me, Julia Child has an heirloom tomato named after her. Wouldn't you know it, this tomato plant is unusually tall with potato-type leaves and with pink 4" fluted tomatoes at harvest. How appropriate for Julia. Guess I will try again next year, because I'm sure the tomatoes are "Bon Appetit" tasty.
I usually purchase my tomato seedlings locally, but I noticed on the web a nice heirloom tomato website, Tomato Fest, with a wonderful selection of heirloom tomato seeds, including "Julia Child".
What heirloom tomatoes do you grow and recommend? What do you think is the biggest difference between heirloom tomatoes and commercial hybrid tomatoes?