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Jessica’s Garden: Heirloom Tomatoes: Colorful, Unique and Some So Ugly, They’re Beautiful


While it’s getting late in the Summer garden season, our tomatoes have finally begun to produce. They had a rough start between a later than usual planting and a couple of battles with aphids and yellow spot disease. But we are now harvesting several pounds of tomatoes daily. I only grow heirloom tomatoes at this point out of preference. I love their unique tastes between varieties and stunning color, size and shape array. This year we have planted close to thirty plants with somewhere around twenty different varieties. While heirlooms are trickier to successfully grow than their hybrid counterparts, due to lesser disease resistance, they are too tempting for me to resist. So far we have been able to mostly stay on top of the harvest by incorporating them daily into our meals. However, I foresee canning and freezing in my near future.

An excellent heirloom tomato for sauce making is the San Marzano Roma variety. With lots of meaty and flavorful flesh, and a lower seed and water content, they are a great choice for cooking and sauces. While any tomato variety can be made into sauces, Roma and paste tomatoes are preferable since they require less cooking down. We have four San Marzano plants that are loaded with large green fruit, waiting to change color.

Among my favorite varieties for a general table and sandwich tomato is the Black Krim; a variety almost so ugly it’s beautiful. It has a delicious and sweet tomato flavor, and is large in size and extraordinary in color. It has deep green shoulders near the stem end and a purplish- red blossom end, while the inside flesh has its own awesome color display. In terms of a cherry tomato for snacking and salads, I have been enjoying a new variety for our family called a Black Prince cherry tomato. They are juicy, large and packed with flavor. But additionally appear to be more resistant to cracking and diseases than other grape and cherry tomatoes that I’ve previously grown, such as the Yellow Pear.

I’ve been trying to be creative with our uses of tomatoes, but you truly cannot beat a classic combination of fresh tomatoes, garden basil and balsamic vinegar. Several evenings since the onset of our tomato harvest, we’ve been enjoying a fresh tomato salad as a side to supper. Served as a side to a homemade quiche with eggs from our chickens and baby salad greens, also tossed in balsamic and oil, it makes an easy, colorful and sophisticated meal.  And it’s a great way to use several tomatoes in one go.



Heirloom Tomato Wedge Salad

3-5 Medium Sized Heirloom Tomatoes
2 Sprigs Fresh Basil
1-2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1-2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Slice tomatoes into wedges and basil into ribbons.  In mixing bowl, drizzle tomatoes with oil and vinegar to desired strength. Add basil ribbons, salt and pepper and gently toss. Serve immediately for best taste and freshness. Serves about 6.

Posted By: Jessica J. Crawford Behnkes Garden Blogger

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

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