Few things excite a summertime farmers market crowd more than a spread of vividly-hued heirloom tomatoes. Unlike mass-produced tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes are breed with unique characteristics that have been passed down for generations. There are countless varieties that differ in color, shape, and size, as well as maturation times.
They range from the hefty, irregularly shaped, explosively juicy cherokee purple to the tiny, tart, and firm green zebra. Because heirloom tomato cultivars come in early-, mid-, and late-season varieties, pay attention to what's available at your local market that day. Generally speaking, select tomatoes that are firm, heavy for their size, and free of any open cracks or wounds. For ideas on how to cook with them, read more.
Enjoy them the way I do most often, which is simply sliced and drizzled with good olive oil, freshly ground pepper, and flaky sea salt. Or highlight their flavor in a variety of dishes:
- Slice super thin and serve carpaccio style with an Asian-inspired drizzle.
- Use a grater to crush ripe heirlooms into a classic gazpacho.
- Cut a thick midsection out of an heirloom to include in a picnic-perfect caprese-inspired tomato and mozzarella sandwich.
- Take advantage of small, intensely-flavored varieties to create an unconventional tomato water martini.
- Make a flaky, savory heirloom tomato tart reminiscent of the French countryside.
- Toss them in a Calabrian bread salad along with basil and olive oil-packed tuna.
What's your favorite way to use an heirloom tomato?