Story and photos by Hal Goodtree
Cary, NC – You can get tomatoes at the supermarket all year round. But science can’t trump Nature, and for the true tomato aficionado, now is a time of tomato joy in the Piedmont.
In Praise of Heirloom Tomatoes
For flavor, give me an heirloom tomato anytime, ripened in the field, its firmness just beginning to relax into perfection.
Pick it up and smell it. It smells like a tomato.
Heirloom tomatoes are grown from old-timey varieties, before the advent of pesticides and laboratory engineering. German Johnson (a really big tomato pictured above) and Purple Cherokee seem popular at the markets this year.
Heirlooms are generally bigger than modern varieties (sometimes called hybrids) – too big to ship en mass to a supermarket without bruising. They are also “ugly” tomatoes, sometimes ropey or strangely shaped.
A perfectly round, unblemished, evenly red tomato (like the three-pack from the grocery store) has no flavor at all compared to an heirloom. It’s just red pulp.
Okay, I know. Supermarkets do get heirlooms and other fancy tomatoes. But they can cost $4.99 a pound, a buck more than at the farm markets. And they’re not as field-fresh as the ones sold by the farmers, either.
Now is the Season for Carolina Tomatoes
All across the Piedmont, the really big tomatoes are coming in. Now is the time to get them if you love a good tomato.
In addition to the heirlooms, Roma tomatoes are in abundance as well as varieties of yellow tomatoes – both the big ones and the yellow “cherry” tomatoes.
If you eat by the seasons, the lettuce is over and the arugula gone to flower. So enjoy what Nature gives us during the height of summer – heavenly tomatoes.
The Downtown Cary Farmers Market and the Western Wake Farmers Market are both open on Tuesday afternoons and Saturday mornings. DJ’s Farmstand is open 7 days a week during warm weather. Visit their respective websites for more information.
What’s Your Favorite Tomato Recipe?
Share your favorite tomato recipe in the comments.