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Tomatoes, Heritage

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Available

August 15 - September 30

Harvest Period

August 15 - September 30

The tomato likely originated in present day Peru where eight species still grow wild in the Andes Mountains. From Peru, an unidentified wild ancestor of the tomato made its way north to Central America. It is likely that the tomato found its way across the Atlantic with the explorer Cortez. The rest….is history.

 

There are three kinds of heirloom tomatoes. Commercial heirlooms are open pollinated varieties that were introduced by seed companies before 1960. Family heirlooms are tomatoes whose seeds have been passed down through the generations. The third category includes the "sports" - the Mystery heirlooms that are created by natural cross pollination or mutation in plants from heirloom seeds. Most heirlooms originated through this last process.

 

What to Look For

 

A ripe tomato should feel firm but not too hard and should feel heavy for its size. Soft spots or mold indicate that the tomato is over ripe.  The best test for a good tomato is its scent – a well-defined tomato aroma is the best indication of a flavourful, juicy experience.

 

Cleaning and Preparation

 

Rinse tomatoes under running water and pat dry with a clean towel. If the skins are not desired, they can be removed by plunging the tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds and then into a tub of cold water.  The skins will peel off easily once the tomatoes have cooled down.

 

Storage

 

Keep tomatoes at room temperature and away from direct sunlight.  Never place in the refrigerator, unless the tomatoes are very ripe and they will not be used that day, as refrigeration prevents the tomatoes from ripening further. To speed up the ripening process place tomatoes in a paper bag with an apple or pear, which produce ethylene, a ripening gas.

 

To freeze, lay whole, washed tomatoes in a single layer on a pan in the freezer.  Once frozen, pack into freezer bags and remove as needed.  Tomatoes can also be peeled and boiled down into a sauce before freezing in containers.

 

Nutritional Information

 

Tomatoes are a very good source of vitamins A, C and K and a good source of potassium and manganese. Deep red tomatoes contain high levels of the carotenid, lycopene, a powerful phytochemical. Lycopene is not well absorbed into the body unless the tomatoes are cooked and some dietary fat (such as olive oil) is present In addition, vine-ripened tomatoes have more lycopene than those that ripen after they are picked.

 

One large (3” diameter) ripe tomato provides, on average, 33 calories, 0g fat, 7g carbohydrate, 2g dietary fiber, and 2g protein.

 

How to Use

 

Although tomatoes originated in the New World and were not introduced to Europe and Asia until the 16th Century, it’s hard to imagine a national cuisine that doesn’t celebrate them.  Raw, boiled down into sauces, roasted until caramelized, seared over an open flame or dried under the sun, tomatoes are an indispensable food around the world.

 

Varieties

 

Heirloom tomatoes have a long history, having been handed down from generation to generation, and are in danger of being lost from production. These tomatoes don’t look perfect, nor do they store or ship well, but discriminating consumers look beyond appearances and consider taste. And, heirlooms do come with an incredible range of colours and tastes. Why not try the extra juicy Black Krim with its smoky saltiness and dark purple-black flesh, or the classic Brandywine an Amish heirloom tomato which consistently wins best-tasting awards across the country. The low-acid, uniquely shaped fruit of the Yellow Pear has been enjoyed by gardeners and tomato aficionados since the 1800s.