Little did I know four years ago when I gave up buying tomatoes out of season that I would stumble upon a movement for seasonal, local, fresh food. Mostly, I gave them up because as often as I tried, always hoping the next tomato would be better than the last, they just never were. Store bought tomatoes in Michigan during a January freeze are just not good. There were no name or grassroots movement that I was aware of, it was just the basic fact. The tomatoes may have all been uniform in size and a nice bright red on the outside, but the insides were colorless and lacking in flavor.
I began to garden and grow my own tomatoes. I started with Burpee seeds and planted “Beefsteak” and “Early Janes” along with a few cherry and grape tomato plants. There is nothing better than a sun warmed tomato fresh from the garden. There’s no need to even salt them. These seedling tomatoes did me well and got me on the path of gardening and preserving my harvest.
Eventually we moved to another town, where there was a road side stand every spring where a local lady sold her fruit and veggie plants already started. When her purple umbrella covered stand opened I knew it was time to get my garden started. I compost throughout the year and plant into the rich earth those pretty little plants that I always counted on to grow big and strong, laden with my bounty.
This year, I have a friend who moved out of her forested childhood home to a nice sunny farm not too far from where I call home. She ordered heirloom seeds for all types of fruits and veggies. She diligently set up shop and started her seeds indoors before sowing them into the ground after the last frost. Today, I lucked out and got to try one of those heirloom tomatoes. This tomato was a Krim, I don’t remember if it was the red of black variety but it was a Krim of some sort. It was delicious. Really, just plain wonderful with a little salt and pepper it, in my opinion should be considered a culinary masterpiece.
Heirloom tomatoes are not your grocery store variety. They are not all uniformed red or globe shaped. They come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Their appearance may even be off-putting to us who have been indoctrinated into believing that tomatoes should all be the red orbs that we often see in stores. Someone may glance at the wide variety of colors and shapes and think something went wrong with these fruits. I encourage everyone to just try it. Try a bite of a tomato that is not your everyday variety that you are used too. The flavors are so worth it. These are the way tomatoes are supposed to taste.
Once you have branched out away from grocery store tomatoes it is hard to ever go back. You start to order sandwiches at shops without tomato, not because you don’t like them but because they are those flavorless store-bought variety. Then you stop buying them out of season because really those mealy uniformed orbs just don’t cut it. Eventually you find that you need to start a container garden to grow a plant or two. That’s how it all started for me. Now, I prefer to grow my own but when I need more than I have room to grow, I shop from my local farmers markets. The food is so much better on so many levels. I believe it has broken down less nutrition wise from not traveling miles and miles in trucks or planes, it is less likely to be genetically modified in a laboratory and also the food just tastes better.
So, this year, the harvests are coming in and nature’s bounty is all around us. Take the time to sample foods from your local farmers markets, try one of the “odd” looking tomatoes with names like San Marzano, Brandywine red, Gardeners Delight, Cherokee purple, Black Krim, Green Zebra, Amish Paste, Aunt Ruby’s German Green, Chocolate Cherry, or Three Sisters and enjoy the wonderful flavors that await you.
ps… I am so bummed I forgot to take a picture of my friends awesome tomatoes! *Face to Palm