Heirloom Tomatoes

I have a unique love/hate relationship with tomatoes. There are instances where I do not like tomatoes anywhere near my plate and other instances where tomatoes have a starring role. This endlessly baffles Mr. K, as he can never seem to figure out which instances are which, and therefore cannot determine if I in fact like tomatoes or not. My answer would be...it depends.

In general, I would say I prefer them cooked over fresh. I always order sandwiches sans tomato, and remove them from my salads. On the other hand, I enjoy fresh bruchetta, and salsas.

When I was growing up, my uncle used to grow tomatoes in the backyard. So, for me tomatoes really signal summer. And, whether I am eating them or not, I adore their smell.

Last summer, during one of my grocery shopping adventures, I came across heirloom tomatoes. They really do look so much cooler than a regular tomato. They are bigger, bumpier, more colorful, and less perfect looking. You would probably assume that they are grown to be different, but to some degree it is actually the other way around.

"Regular" tomatoes are grown to be more uniform in shape, size, color, etc....so that they can be sort mass produced to meet the consumer demands. Most of the tomatoes purchased from grocery stores are hybrids. Without taking a detour into genetics, this means that the tomato growers take the best of the best from the tomato seeds, and over time they have created a tomato that is round, red, a certain size, etc etc. They have created the perfect looking tomato. Unfortunately, most people with agree that the taste of the tomato is sacrificed along the way, which is why it is so easy to tell the difference between store bought and home grown.

Heirloom tomatoes, on the other hand, are bred with a greater focus on the flavor instead, not the perfect look. And, rather then selectively breeding them to be something very specific, the good taste seeds are passed down and repeated over and over. Hence the name "heirloom".

You can use heirloom tomatoes in all your recipes that call for tomatoes, and do your own taste tests. There are even cookbooks out devoted completely to heirloom tomatoes!

Here is a summer cocktail to get you started on your own heirloom tomato adventure...
Heirloom Martini
1/4 piece heirloom tomato
Small sprig fresh basil plus more leaves, for garnish
2 ounces vodka
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 ounce Cointreau
In a pint glass or a shaker, muddle the tomato and basil. Add ice, vodka, lemon juice and Cointreau. Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a basil leaf.

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