ruthless compassion (aroraborealis) wrote,
ruthless compassion

tomato tasting, review

Yesterday, I had an heirloom tomato tasting party! It was quite delicious.

I provided these varieties to taste:

White Queen
Yellow Queen
Black Prince
Dad's Sunset
Cherokee Purple
Big Rainbow

Other folks brought:

Green Zebra
A variety whose plant was labeled White Queen but upon fruiting, clearly wasn't. It was probably Orange Jubilee.
Generic but delicious cherry tomatoes

omegabeth made awesome fried green tomatoes.

Favorites seemed to be the Queens and the Cherokee Purple, though I think I heard at least one person raving about each variety over the course of the afternoon.

The tomatoes came from Verrill Farm in Concord, where they had probably 30 varieties of tomatoes, along with lots of other tasty, locally- and organically-grown produce.

A couple of people commented how interesting it was to taste these different tomatoes side by side, where you could really compare their different flavors. This is the primary reason I like to do tastings like this. It's one thing to have a Brandywine and think, "Hey, this is better than any tomato I've gotten at the supermarket!" and another thing entirely to have a bunch of varieties all together. It was through this kind of context that I first discovered I like apples, and that "apple" is a group with a lot of different flavors.

But why a tomato tasting?

Tomatoes are delicate fruits that don't ship well. In the decades since industry has taken over the distribution of food, growers have looked for and bred varieties of produce, including tomatoes, that can stand up to being shipped all over the country (and beyond), so that folks like us, in Massachusetts, can have tomatoes grown in warmer climates all year 'round. This has led to tomatoes that can be shipped, but that aren't very tasty.

Additionally, this selective cultivation means that most of the tomatoes that are out there are highly bred, probably hybrids (which means that their seeds don't produce fruiting plants) and have very limited genetic variety. From the point of view of thinking about food for the future, heirloom varieties of all kinds of plants, including tomatoes and apples (I'll be having an apple tasting in the fall, if I ever have a free moment) are a way of maintaining an effective "backup" file of the diversity of plants out there.

I value not only the culinary opportunities of heirloom varieties, but also the opportunity to rediscover where the foods we commonly eat today began. And I'm glad that there are farmers out there keeping these seed stocks alive and well. Plus, mmm, tasty! And I bet everyone learned something new about the flavors of tomatoes yesterday, too, which is pretty great, if you ask me. Which you didn't, but I'm telling you, anyway.
Tags: food, social

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