Available at Doorstep this week are punnets of Heirloom Tomatoes. Generally, I find organic tomatoes are full of flavour, especially those ripened on the vine so i was somewhat sceptical about the punnet of Heirlooms sitting on my desk when i arrived at work this morning. Do they really taste better than your average tomato? At $9.80 for a 500g punnet they represent reasonable value when compared to other punnets. But do they really taste better than a regular tomato? Well… I tried them on some Bowan Island Wholemeal Sourdough (as they were sitting on my desk anyway), and the answer? a definitave YES!! If you have not tried an heirloom, then its true, you’ve never tasted a real tomato. SO what makes them taste better?
The first thing is you get all the subtle differences that have been bred out of today’s tomatoes. Your yellow heirloom are milder and the red have a lot more acidic quality which equals more flavour. Tomatoes, like all fruit and vegetables are seasonal and the growing window is quite small. Todays tomatoes, especially those sold on the conventional market are grown for their uniform appearance, red qualities, ease of transport and are sold all year around. Often they are picked unripe, so the window of time between picking and your table is significantly longer than that for an heirloom tomato and because they are unripe (and hard) they are not damaged in transport… this contributes to the tomatoes general lack of flavour. Unfortunately (even in the Organic market) economics and practicalities win out over quality and flavour.
My advice… try the heirlooms while you can, they won’t be around for long. If you can’t get heirlooms go for the vine ripened!