Heirloom Tomato Tasting
Larissa Curlik Aug 30, 2011 Event Beat 4 comments
Don’t be fooled…The Wapsipinicon Peach is not really a peach. The fuzzy yellow plum-shaped tomato was named after the Wapsipinicon River in northeast Iowa and first cultivated in 1890 by a gentleman named Elbert S. Carman. It blushes ever so slightly when ripe, hinting at its delicate sweetness.
A perfect pairing for sweet summer corn with a simple salad, the Green Zebra develops a yellow hue as it ages on the vine. Its slightly spicy tang also makes it an irresistible choice for this Indian-inspired tomato jam with ginger, cinnamon, cumin and cayenne.
My favorite—Kellogg’s Breakfast—is deep orange, thin-skinned and nearly seedless. When sliced, its meaty flesh reveals a kaleidoscope of golden yellows, red and green. Originally bred in Michigan, it's so big it makes for a complete meal after a morning in the field.
Heirloom tomatoes, unlike their supermarket counterparts, have personality. Their individuality is expressed not only in differences between their varieties, but in each and every fruit. (Yes, tomatoes are a fruit!). No two are quite alike. They’re not perfectly shaped or even red, necessarily. But their flavors are sweet and intense, particularly in years like this when dry weather keeps the water content of the fruits low and the flavors concentrated.
With the end of summer just around the corner, last weekend was the perfect time to celebrate the season and glut of vine-ripened tomatoes in the fields. I headed to Cedar Circle Farm in East Thetford, Vermont for their 3rd Annual Tomato Tasting by the river to help honor the heirloom tomato and commitment of generations of farmers and gardeners to preserving the biological and cultural diversity of the tomato.
In the calm before the devastating storm Irene, which left many farmers in Vermont and New Hampshire battling to save their crops, tomato-lovers gathered on the banks of the Connecticut River to taste eleven varieties of heirloom tomatoes. There was music, a farmers' market featuring farm chef Allison’s special tomato chile jam, basil pesto with walnuts and rosemary olive oil plus half a dozen creative appetizers all inspired by unique flavors of the farm’s harvest.
There was tomato coconut soup with purple basil and lime, tomato and watermelon salad, chevre and pesto bruschetta each topped with tomato preserves and a sparkling tomato water with lemongrass and ginger drink that was a surprisingly cool, non-alcoholic twist on the tomato cocktail.
As an educational center, Cedar Circle Farm publishes lots of great recipes on their website. I wanted to share their salsa recipe because it makes the perfect snack with chips if you’ve got a barbeque planned or a dish to bring to your neighbor’s potluck this Labor Day. You can adjust the level of spiciness by the number of jalapenos you add, but since the heirloom tomatoes I picked were unusually sweet, I used more than less to balance out the flavors and give it a little kick.
WILL’S FRESH SALSA
from Cedar Circle Farm in East Thetford, Vermont
10 jalapeno peppers (or 5 for less spicy salsa)
10 heirloom tomatoes
2 medium onions, chopped
1 large head garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, finely chopped
½ cup cilantro, finely chopped
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
Roast the tomatoes and the jalapeno peppers until they are blistered. Cover them with a wet towel for at least ½ hour. Peel the skin off the tomatoes and the peppers.
Combine two peeled tomatoes and two peppers in a blender with the cilantro, cumin, salt, pepper and oregano. Blend until the ingredients are reduced to a liquid.
Chop the remaining tomatoes and peppers into ¼-inch pieces. Combine with the onions, garlic and blended ingredients.
Photos by G. Owen Cadwalader