food Program

Heirloom Tomatoes

Photo by GRACELINKS on flickr

Marvel at over a hundred varieties of heirloom  Gtomatoes and feast your eyes and your palette on nature’s delicious harvest, all the while reveling in their unique names! Black Brandywine, Goliath, Sun Gold, Black Plum, Marianna’s Peace, German Giant, Banana Legs, Big Rainbow, Aunt Gertie’s Gold, Box Car Willie, Cherokee Purple, Daydream, Great White, Green Zebra, Louisiana Pink, Missouri Pink Love Apple, Nebraska Wedding…

The popularity of these old fashioned tomatoes has blossomed in recent years due to their refreshing flavor, texture, and crazy colors, but also because of their organic origins. To be certified heirloom, these tomatoes have to be grown from seed that has produced the same variety of tomato for at least fifty years, and they must be certified organic  Gby a recognized USDA organization.

They have to be grown outside and pollinated, and they cannot be hybrid tomatoes, as is the case with store bought varieties of red tomatoes where seeds are cross pollinated to toughen their resistance to parasites and lengthen their shelf life. Although they blemish and spoil much quicker than factory produced hybrid tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes are worth the effort - you will be rewarded as soon as you sink your teeth into this delicious fruit!

Heirloom tomato seeds have been handed down from generations of tomato growers whose love of these tomatoes has been shared with their neighbors and communities. Their names tell the tale of their origins and the people who have grown them. Their variety has increased their popularity in the commercial market as foodies strive to bring their old fashioned flavors back onto dinner plates across the country.

The redder the tomato, the sweeter it is. Darker colored tomatoes are generally a nice mixture between sweet and tart, such as the purple and black varieties, and the green and
white ones are more bitter. Prized for their organic origins, antioxidants, vitamins, and cancer preventing agents, integrate their rainbow of colors and tastes into your next dish!

Here are some popular varieties of heirloom tomatoes and some quick and easy ways to prepare them:

  • Cherokee Purple: This heirloom tomato supposedly comes from the Cherokee Indians, is sweet and has a rich, smoky taste. Make an impromptu Mexican Pico de Gallo salsa: chop up a couple of Cherokee Purples with half a chopped jalapeno pepper, a couple of spoonfuls of chopped onion, fresh coriander, a squeeze of lemon juice and a bit of salt. It’s an instant party pleaser!
  • Great White: This is a sweet and juicy yellow tomato, with low acidic levels. Slice and serve with a little ground sea salt and fresh pepper.
  • Green Zebra: When ripe, this green tomato has yellow stripes and is sweet yet a bit tart at the same time. Next time you prepare a pasta dish, when you toss together your sauce and/or vegetables directly in the pan with the pasta, add chopped green zebra tomatoes at the last minute and toss with the pasta mix just before serving.
  • Nebraska Wedding: This large orange tomato is meaty and sweet and is perfect on its own with fresh pepper and drizzled olive oil.
  • Snow White Cherry:Similar to cherry tomatoes, this yellow cherry tomato is sweet and great tossed in a salad.

For more information, check out Dr. Carolyn Male et al.’s "100 Heirloom Tomatoes for the American Garden," Workman Publishing, 1999.

To buy seeds:

Golden Harvest Organics

Heirloom Varieties

Tomato Fest