Heirloom Tomatoes

The CSA where I work specializes in heirloom tomatoes, meaning they have over 50 different varieties!  Somehow I got to bypass the step of digging all the plants into the ground this year, but I’ll never forget last summer’s experience.  Planting the 500+ plants that yield the pounds and pounds of fruit proves to be one sweaty workout.  All the planting seems worth it though when the tomatoes of all shapes, sizes, and colors start saddling the plants, allowing a different tomato to land in just about every meal of the day.

If you’ve never had an heirloom tomato, strap on your seat belt or pop your kick stand, and ride yourself over to your local farmer’s market.  Now.  Despite some of the ugly colors they come in (reddish brown, for one), heirloom tomatoes are the best you’ll ever eat.  They tend to contain the most flavor of any tomato, and many of the varieties are significantly sweeter too.

The word heirloom can apply to any number of plants.  Generally, it refers to a seed that has been passed down through several generations because of the special or notable characteristics it contains.  Commercially, the technical definition is an open-pollinated plant that’s at least 40 years old.  Then there’s the “created heirloom,” which in the tomato’s case, refers to one that was born from crossing two heirlooms.  The seeds then must go through five seasons to officially change from a “hybrid” to an heirloom.

Commercial growers tend to breed special tomatoes for durability, but true heirlooms were bred for their taste.  Any vine-ripened, homegrown tomato is sure to surpass one you’d purchase in the grocery store, but heirloom varieties are well-known for being the best.  Just like your grandma’s <insert nostalgic food here> recipe, these beauties have proven their ability to stand the test of time.

There are tons of ways to use tomatoes, but in the summer when I don’t always want to do much cooking, simple is the way to go.  And with the flavor of heirlooms, that’s easy to do.  A little basil, olive oil, vinegar, and S&P is really all you need if you’re a tomato fan.  Stick with balsamic vinegar if you have it because balsamic in particular helps to draw out the sweetness of the tomatoes.

Heirloom Tomatoes


  • Heirloom Tomato Salad
  • -A variety of heirloom tomatoes, sliced
  • -Handful of basil, loosely chopped or julienned
  • -Vidalia onion, thinly sliced
  • -Olive oil
  • -Balsamic vinegar
  • -Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. There really isn't much to it. Toss all of the ingredients together, and create a vinaigrette using a 2:1 ratio of olive oil to vinegar. Serve at room temp.

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  • Reply
    August 8, 2011 at 9:50 am

    My heirlooms are just starting to ripen. Their taste is incredible.

  • Reply
    August 8, 2011 at 11:37 am

    These look beautiful! Thanks for the horticulture lesson–I honestly didn’t know how you defined an heirloom tomato.

  • Reply
    Weighting For 50@weightingfor50
    August 10, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    In a word….wow! I would LOVE that basket of tomatoes!!! And the salad you turned them into! Have a great day.

  • Reply
    Hannah (BitterSweet)
    August 11, 2011 at 10:53 am

    Swoon! Such beautiful tomatoes… They are both stunning to look at and a treat to eat. Seriously, I wouldn’t even need dessert if I could have a luscious heirloom tomato after every meal- And that’s really something coming from me!

  • Reply
    August 13, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    I love heirloom tomatoes and especially the colors. My kids go crazy for them in our garden and eat them straight up. Gorgeous photo of the tomatoes!

  • Reply
    Tomato, Basil, and Goat Cheese Omelet « Food-Fitness-FreshAir
    August 24, 2011 at 5:34 am

    […] more reason to get out of bed on a Saturday morning.  This past weekend, inspired by the overripe heirloom on my counter, I cracked a couple eggs and shaped the recipe for this […]

  • Leave a Reply to Tomato, Basil, and Goat Cheese Omelet « Food-Fitness-FreshAir Cancel Reply