When it comes to autumn foods, it seems like the world revolves around apples and pumpkin spice. The At Home Chef wants to send a little love towards another fall food hero: heirloom tomatoes. Like their name suggests, heirloom tomatoes are a variety of the classic vegetable that have cross-pollinated to create the gorgeous, colorful, and arguably most delicious tomato available.
By definition, heirloom tomatoes carry a bit of history with them. In the world of seeds, a particular variety of plant or vegetable that has survived for more than 50 years is considered an heirloom. For a tomato to be considered an heirloom tomato, it must be of a strain of seeds that is at least 50 years old or be associated with an heirloom area, farm, or specific family. Heirloom tomatoes are often open pollinated, which means they are pollinated by insects or wind without human intervention—and that’s remarkable in today’s farming culture.
Like I mentioned in this blog post, I love food that grows with a little bit of dirt on it, and nothing is more satisfying than growing my own produce. My wife and I have been growing heirloom tomatoes for years, and our plants are Stamper heirloom tomatoes. The crop was given to us as seeds from my wife’s colleague, Betty Stamper. Her family grew them for years, and she gifted us seeds, and the harvest continues every year! We start our Stamper tomatoes under a grow light in our home in late February, and then we transplant them to our home garden in the Spring to ensure they get the nutrients and soil they need to continue producing
Late summer and fall is peak tomato season, and heirloom tomatoes are on full display at most local produce markets. From green stripes to deep reds to solid yellows and oranges, heirloom tomatoes offer so much more than the classic red color. The range of colors makes heirlooms a simple way to add color and texture to a plate without dramatically altering ingredients. (Interested in learning more about how to plate your food? Check out this article.)
Beyond the visual beauty of heirloom tomatoes, the flavor they bring to a dish is incredible when compared to a mainstream, grocery-store tomato. Heirloom tomatoes’ range of flavors is as deep and diverse as the colors they present. From mild Azoychka to sweet Brandywines, each variety offers its own combination of sweet and bold flavors.
The best way to capture the flavor to enjoy all year? Canning! Properly canning your tomatoes will ensure that you can enjoy them all year long. The At Home Chef uses homegrown heirloom tomatoes for recipes in every season, and there’s nothing better than adding the flavor of a tomato that was plucked and canned at the perfect time.
Heirloom tomatoes give chefs a lot of room for creativity. From beautiful color palettes to a host of flavors, we can use heirloom tomatoes to take our dishes to the next level. Plus, more than anything, heirloom tomatoes offer a bit of local history and a great story to your plate, especially if you can learn more about the particular variety of heirloom tomato you’re serving. Find the story, grab the tomatoes, and serve up an amazing dish this fall season