No, not dessert… just something I am obsessing over since receiving our first few heirloom tomatoes of the summer. I remember a time in my life where I hated tomatoes, well most tomatoes. I would only eat the tomatoes from my Pock’s garden. He had a fairly small garden in our backyard but every year he grew a tomato similar to the Early Girl. They were bright red and juicy and we couldn’t wait to pick them. He would slice them up with salt and sometimes we would just stand at the kitchen counter and eat them. He is the one who instilled a love for fruit and salt that I just can’t break to this day (grapefruit, cantaloupe, watermelon…).
Planting the first seeds
watching Pock garden
Some time in the past giant seed corporations like Monsanto took control and decided what we should eat. They funded genetic engineering for crops to withstand pests and drought, and found a way to patent their seeds’ genes. There have been an outrageous number of lawsuits for farmers crops that have been contaminated by Monsanto who demands a technology fee for using their product (even when the product comes by air or bird poop). This concept is completely wrong. Plants are very smart and these engineers are taking a role that no one should. Plants evolve in certain climates to reach maximum growth under the conditions they are used to. Evolution. It’s that simple. Unfortunately, big corporations have taken the region out of our food system. Fortunately, farmers (mostly smaller scale) have joined a movement against the Man and began collecting and sharing seeds like heirloom varieties.
The Slow Food Movement has strongly backed growing heirloom varietals of vegetables and even Turkeys and Chickens. The Seed Savers Exchange is a non profit dedicated to sharing rare seeds and have been around since the 70’s. I like this idea very much, and hope to support it when I have a garden of my own. (First I need a balcony or south light). But the movement has sparked interest in consumers who are tired of the mushy pink hot house tomato. This tomato is the reason for my hatred. Thankfully, I live in a city with a strong support for local food with a great farmers market full of delicious tomatoes. Our first CSA box came a couple weeks ago with an assortment of heirlooms that were huge. I really enjoyed my walk through the farmers market last Saturday when I saw a tomato the size of my head, but lumpy and disproportionate. A man pointed it out to his daughter and she was completely confused. These tomatoes are slightly unpredictable. They are all very fun looking, fairy tale like even. Something that Alice should have eaten to increase in size. Some are striped, some multicolored, but they all surpass what my taste buds once knew as “tomato”. Meaty flesh with little pockets of seeds scattered randomly throughout make each slice unique. I sliced one open before dinner and regretting that I had not taken a picture before, decided it was time. I had only planned on eating half and saving the rest for later and I did, but it was only about 10 minutes later. I think the tomato I ate was something like the Cherokee Purple but don’t know for sure. All I know is that I am happy for summer and that summer brings tomatoes.
If you have a garden I encourage you to check out the link above for the Seed Saver Exchange instead of buying your seeds at garden super stores. Do your part to bring back the Heirloom! I wanted to add some recipes at the end here that I plan on attempting this summer with our tomatoes to break the general thought that tomatoes may only be used in savory dishes. If you try one before me I’d love to hear how it turned out!
Source of recipes SFGate
Oliveto, Oakland CA
Chef Paul Canales and Pastry Chef Jenny Raven