Heirloom Tomatoes – Growing, Cooking, Appreciating

It’s finally heirloom tomato season here. They arrived at the farm stand last week, at the farmer’s market the week before. Ugly and strange, large and mottled. Purple, orange, yellow, green, pink, red and even chocolate brown. (Haven’t seen White Queen yet, but I’m sure it’s just a few days behind.)

I have always loved the heirlooms, appreciated their fragility and lusciousness. Then I spent some time drooling over Amy Goldman’s beautiful ode to these fruits, The Heirloom Tomato (http://amzn.com/159691291X ) and fell in love all over again.

There were high hopes for my own garden’s heirloom tomatoes, grown from seed and patiently transplanted at the beginning of the summer. Here is the sad report:

2 Kelloggs Breakfast plants have produced one tomato, not yet ripe
1 Black Krim plant has produced 6 tomatoes, one ripened (and luscious) and five still growing and ripening
1 Brandywine plant has no tomatoes at all
1 Hillbilly plant has no tomatoes at all
1 Mr. Stripey has no tomatoes at all
1 German Johnson has 14 tomatoes, all still ripening
10 Roma plants have about 50 tomatoes, all still ripening. Found 4 this morning with advanced blossom end rot.

Beyond the tomatoes – all the kale leaves have been stripped to the rib. The cucumber plant on the fence has produced only one cucumber, stopped growing, turned yellow, then, suddenly yesterday, put out what looks to be healthy new growth. The other cucumber gave me four lovely cucumbers, and is now dying slowly – one leaf at a time. But also has put out what looks to be more healthy growth?

There is one ripening eggplant and seven or eight flowers on four plants.

The Swiss Chard is doing well and tastes really great.

I am overwhelmed with jalapenos, cayenne and Thai bird peppers. But I have put together a jalapeno popper recipe that is so tasty: 2 oz cream cheese + 2 oz cheddar cheese, grated + 1 tsp or more Siraccha sauce, stir & stuff jalapeno halves (clean out ribs and seeds wearing gloves). Wrap with proscuitto. Bake @ 400 for 12-15 min. Cool for a moment, then serve.

This week, I am trying to capture the flavor of heirloom tomatoes in soup and I think I’ve hit upon a winner. And it’s ridiculously easy.

Roasted Heirloom Vegetable Soup
serves 6-8

10-12 heirloom tomatoes
12 cloves of good garlic, peeled

1 medium yellow onion, rough chopped
3-4 heirloom carrots, rough chopped

optional: 2-3 heirloom beets, scrubbed
1/2 c chopped herbs, your choice – for instance – parsley, cilantro, mint, basil, thai basil, celery leaves
2-3 c. liquid – vegetable or chicken stock, water, vegetable or tomato juice
Salt & pepper
Olive oil

Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
Preheat oven to 425
Wash tomatoes and cut in half horizontally.
You’ll need enough to fill – really fill – the cookie sheet.
Place the tomatoes cut side up on the sheet, and tuck in the rest of the vegetables to cover the sheet entirely.


Pour about 1/4-1/3 cup of olive oil over all of this, generously sprinkle with salt and fresh ground pepper.
Roast the vegetables for about an hour to 1.5 hours, until just starting to caramelize on the edges.

Pull the pan from the oven and peel the beets as soon as you can handle them. Dump everything into a big stockpot. Add your liquid, simmer for about 30 minutes and then toss in the herbs.

Now, you can either blend with a stick blender or in small batches in your blender. Or, do as I do, and use a food mill to get the seeds and skins and make for a more consistent texture. To serve, pour hot soup into heated bowls and top with a swirl of fresh cream, sour cream or creme fraiche and a sprinkling of chives. Serve with a grilled cheese sandwich and a small salad. Perfect dinner.

By the way, this soup freezes beautifully and tastes like summer when you defrost it in the winter.

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