by Suzie Yates
If I had to pick one thing out of the entire year to celebrate, it would be the heirloom tomato. Going to one of these festivals can change a person’s life. At their absolute best, tomatoes are the juiciest, most flavorful fruit imaginable, with notes that are tart, tangy, sweet, and acidic. However, to find these peak season plumpies, you have to trudge past most of the tomato market impostors and head to local farms; eighty percent of tomatoes available have been exposed to ethylene gas to ripen them artificially and make them “available” year round. Sure they look good in the supermarket, but you might as well be eating hydroponic Styrofoam with a good paint job.
True tomatoes – the ones that are not engineered and actually exist in nature – have a crazy range of color and vivid flavor to match. They grow in all different shapes, sizes, and firmness so that some are perfect for slicing and eating out of hand, while others are better for slow stewing and cooking down into sauce. Heirlooms are in their own exalted category, distinguished as native non-hybrids that open-pollinate (self-reproduce without human help, unlike hybrid seedlings.) They grow into the same plant year after year if you save seeds from the previous season’s crop. The other reason to seek out heirloom tomatoes is for the fun names: Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, Caspian Pink, Black Krim, Mortgage Lifter, Orange Blossom, Big Rainbow, and Green Zebra. As for more reliable hybrids, my favorite is the Sungold; it’s yellow and the sweetest thing you can find on a vine.
Save the Date:
We’re approaching the end of tomato season, so it’s time to can what’s left in the garden or turn it into sauce.
Whether you fancy them sassy in a salsa, sublime with basil or starring in a simple salad, tomatoes are the garden's late-summer celebrities. This year, the Lexington Farmers' Market is holding the annual festival to celebrate All Things Tomato, on September 6. Market sponsors, volunteers, and town selectmen will be at the farmers' tents helping market visitors sample fresh tomatoes from 2-4 p.m. Throughout the afternoon, farmers and vendors will be offering up special tomato treats for purchase.