5@5 - Reasons to get excited about heirloom tomatoes
July 5th, 2011
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

You say "tomato," Chef Greg Elliott of Chicago's Lockwood Restaurant says "pass the heirloom."

As we previously explained, "heirloom seeds come from plants that have remained genetically unchanged and have been open-pollinated (by insects, birds, wind, etc.) for at least 50 – or some say 100 – years. This means no hybridizing with other varieties of plants."

'Maters that have stood the test of time? Let's definitely not call the whole thing off.

Five Reasons to Get Excited About Heirloom Tomatoes: Greg Elliott

1. Variety is the spice of life
"How exciting is it to stroll around the farmers market and rummage through at least 12 to 15 varieties of heirloom tomatoes? Truly a gift from Mother Nature. Each variety with its own color, shape, taste, size; Each variety displaying its own personality.

You ask yourself, 'What am I in the mood for today?' Brandywine, Purple Cherokee, Green Zebra, Old German, Matt's Wild Cherry tomatoes - decisions, decisions! I guess it could be worse. What a wonderful thing to have over 600 varieties of heirlooms."

2. The best raw food in the world
"A little sea salt, a splash of some good olive oil and it’s on. The joy of eating heirloom tomatoes is about as good as it gets.

Or better yet, grow your own, and eat a tomato right off of the vine, late in the day while it’s still warm from basking in the late afternoon sun - then, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Pure heaven."

3. Tomato water
"One of my favorite things to do with heirlooms (besides eat them) is to pulse them in the blender, place the pulp in some cheesecloth, tie it in a bundle, hang it with some string and allow the water from the pulp to slowly drip.

Here, you’re left with one of the tastiest things in the world: tomato water. You can use it for broths, sauces, cocktails or just about anything you can imagine. Just add a pinch of salt and you have the true elixir of summertime."

4. Good things come to those who wait
"Everyone, including myself, jumps the gun once the warm summer weather arrives. You’ve hit the 4th of July mark and you’re telling yourself, 'I could go for a nice heirloom tomato salad.'

It’s even worse towards the end of July and there is still no sign of heirlooms. The fact of the matter is that heirloom tomato season really doesn’t start, at the earliest, until the end of July. Instead, it is usually the first or second week of August and will run until early or mid-October depending where you’re located in the country.

It’s probably the most anticipated season of any fruit or vegetable, but once it gets here, boy, it’s good!"

5. Right off the vine
"The smell of tomato vines is a smell that I can trace back to my earliest days of my childhood. There is something magical about that smell. Running your fingers down the vine, giving it a little squeeze and holding them to your nose is something I still do every time I come around a tomato plant.

It’s a primal, raw scent that I believe is intoxicating to all animals on this planet. It’s a smell that can take you places on a warm summer afternoon, with your eyes closed and a nice summer breeze in your face. Really, does anything smell better?"

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

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Filed under: 5@5 • Gardening • Heirloom • Make • Think

soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. farleyjc

    Agree on the smell of a tomato vine. I remember as a child living on a farm and my hands having that smell after picking tomatoes. Gee, I miss it. I only buy vine ripe tomatoes and if the vine doesn't have that smell, I don't buy the tomato. There is a big difference in taste.

    July 6, 2011 at 10:02 am |
  2. Steve

    Agrre with everything except get you facts right. i have 11 variries of heirlooms ripe now. They do start before the forth and last about 6 weeks.

    July 6, 2011 at 7:46 am |
  3. sdkfj

    Dear Eatocracy,


    July 6, 2011 at 4:09 am |
    • Matt

      Dear Captain Caps Lock,
      Fix your caps lock key and stfu.

      July 6, 2011 at 7:55 am |
  4. Stephen

    With heirloom tomatoes, you can save/dry the seeds to plant the next year. I use large flower pots to grow tomatoes in. 1/3 sand, 1/3 top soil, 1/3 compost. I use wire tomato cage to support the plants and secure the cages with shephard hooks to prevent the wind from blowing them over. I've never had a problem with deer or squirrels eating tomatoes. Maybe it's because I allow the squirrels to eat sunflower seed fom my bird feeders. When the tomato leaves begin to wilt, they get a good drink of water. I prune the suckers off that are between the main stem and the branches. I trim the top growth off when the plants reaches the height I want it to (and has plenty of blooms on it). I love home-grown tomatoes!

    July 5, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
  5. mjh

    a MEDICINEAL fruit used in many different cultures with great benefits to the health

    July 5, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
  6. mjh

    one of the magical fruits of the earth used in many recepies and abundant when seasonal

    July 5, 2011 at 9:48 pm |
  7. Jon's Musings

    Kudos to this.

    I have a very nice Heirloom tomato plant coming along that'll start producing anytime. I can't wait!

    July 5, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
  8. keith

    My dog eats tomatoes!!! Steals em off the vine!!! Heh heh heh (It's funny now) Put him on a tomato diet for a week to burn him out on em but stopped because I was afraid it might hurt his health Same with melons he loves em

    July 5, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
    • arrowhead

      had a dog named smiley, looked like a skunk and loved to strip sweet corn from the stalk....

      July 5, 2011 at 11:58 pm |
  9. *going to explode*

    Ok, here goes:

    HEIRLOOM TOMATOES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    July 5, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
    • Rosie O'Grady

      I thought I was the only one going to explode over heirlooms!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Love 'em! GOT to have 'em!!!!!

      July 6, 2011 at 12:00 am |
  10. Ryan

    Cole's right!!
    caprese salads are the best.
    a slice of fresh tomato, a slice of buffalo mozzarella, a fresh basil leaf, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with fresh ground salt and pepper.
    truly tastes like summer...

    July 5, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
  11. Joe

    Unfortunately the squirrels also loved them, and almost decimated my crop last year.

    July 5, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
    • Animals Reign Supreme

      Good. I hope they ate every last one of them. They sure deserve it more than you do.

      July 5, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
      • arrowhead

        another reason to add those tree rats to your menu. Tomato fed!

        July 5, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
    • Tenderitis

      I have the same problem also, although the chipmunks are the biggest offenders.
      Take a 5 gallon bucket, fill half way with water and use a small board as a ramp going up to the bucket.
      Then put peanuts (in the shell) on the ground around the bucket, on the ramp, and add a bunch to the water.
      Check it often to remove the drowned rodents.

      By far the most effective method I've found for chipmunk control, it should work with squirrels also.
      I used to be over run with the destructive little creatures, but I haven't seen one in months.

      July 6, 2011 at 10:06 am |
  12. Cole

    Could not agree more on all points. Tomatoes are definitely the one produce worth splurging on, both because of the variety and the lackluster commercial ones that are picked while still green. Cut heirlooms with fresh mozzarella, basil, dressed with tomato vinaigrette is a favorite late summer snack of mine.

    July 5, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • Martha Rondan

      Love Heirloom Tomatos! B.Witching Bath Co. has this wonderful liquid soap and candle that perfectly captures the fragrance of Heirloom Tomatos. Check out http://www.bwitchingbathco.com

      July 6, 2011 at 9:35 am |
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