Friday, September 26, 2014

Heirloom Tomato Bliss

Yellow Hawaiian~
Ripe Heirloom Tomatoes
I love the intense color and flavor of heirloom tomatoes. I have saved seed from my three favorites for the past 10-25 years; Yellow Hawaiian, Aunt Ruby's German Green and Outdoor Salsa. To save seed, carefully select seed from the best fruit and plants season after season. You can define 'best' to be the characteristic you are after. To prevent cross pollination either isolate each variety by a large distance or hand pollinate and place a cloth bag over the cluster of flowers. Mark this cluster for seed saving with a ribbon or tag.

An example of selecting a specific characteristic is my 'Outdoor Salsa'...for 15 years I have saved seed from only 'meaty' specimens with minimal to no seeds and very large, heavy fruits.
This year I broke my previous years weight record with a huge Outdoor Salsa tomato weighing in at 1 lb. 10-1/4 oz.... Unfortunately I was so excited when I served it with burgers for supper, that I forgot to take a photo of it sliced. The ginormous tomato slice totally concealed the Quinoa Burger Patty underneath and extended beyond all edges of the burger bun! Delicious!

Now for an unfortunate twist...
Outdoor Salsa Tomato ~ 1 lb. 10-1/4 oz.
Three years ago I was informed that one of the major problems attributed to nightshades is arthritis. If you are not familiar with the term nightshades, it is a plant group that includes tomatoes, potatoes, all types of peppers and eggplant. 
If you want to know if nightshades negatively affect you, take a minimum 1 month challenge, (most suggest 3 months). Avoid all nightshades for 1-3 months. Be careful to note the complete nightshade list (you can find it on the web) and become a label reader. You may be surprised that many prescription drugs, homeopathics, over the counter drugs as well as many processed foods contain nightshades. 
After 1-3 months, reintroduce one nightshade at a time. Take note of any aches, pains, stiffness, loss of energy, headaches or any other symptoms. You may find as I have, the quality of your daily health dramatically improve after eliminating nightshades from your diet.   
*This is not meant to be medical advise, please consult your doctor regarding health symptoms.*
As a Chef I truly miss using nightshades in my daily meals but I have found substitutes. I am cautious about adding nightshades to my diet. When I do, I pay the price with arthritic symptoms. My most difficult time of year is when the Heirloom tomatoes are at their peak. So why do I continue to grow something I should not eat? To save their precious seed and sustain these beautiful varieties for future generations.
Till next week, enjoy this recipe with the bounty of your harvest.

Panzanella ~ Rustic Tomato-Bread Salad    
             ~From 'For the Love of Food' by Sally Rae~
This is a visually stunning salad when made with the colors of Heirloom tomatoes and a fabulous addition to a potluck dinner because it does not need refrigeration.
6 medium to large fresh ripe tomatoes, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 large red onion, sliced thin
1/4 cup thinly sliced (or torn) fresh basil
4 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. granulated sugar
6 cups day old, dense, crusty bread, cut into 1-inch cubes

Combine all ingredients except bread in a large bowl; let stand for the flavors to develop, about 10 minutes. Add bread, toss well to coat. If the bread seems dry, sprinkle with a tablespoon or two of water.
Salad will hold several hours at room temperature before serving.

Bon Appetit! 

Photos of Heirloom Tomatoes from my garden and greenhouse 2014 ~ by Sally Rae

1 comment:

  1. Informative post. Thanks for the recipe and the tips on saving heirloom seeds. I'm off to make a toasted tomato sandwich.