Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Our tomatoes are IN! I am proud to announce that last week was the first week we had enough tomatoes for everyone to get some. Many of you may have notice our tomatoes look quite different from the ones you get in the store. This is because most of our tomato varieties are heirloom varieties, not conventional varieties. Halfway through the pick-up on Tuesday I wrote a sign on the tomatoes that read, “these are supposed to be ugly.” Do not be discouraged by their scabby, cracked, asymmetrical appearance. They are bred for exceptional flavor, not appearance. They come in various shapes and colors and never look like a typical, round, red tomato. Their most defining and unifying characteristic is that they are FRAGILE. Often the crack in the time it takes for us to carry them up the hill from the vine and into the pick-up area. In an effort to reduce the oozing, puddle mess of tomatoes that might otherwise greet you in the bin, we try to pick the tomatoes a couple days early to give them a little resiliency. This way you not only have a completely bruised tomato, but you hopefully have the option of eating it the day after you go to the farm if you so desire. This being said, not matter what you do, heirloom tomatoes will always be a little bit of a mess. To reduce this, please do not handle them more than you need to when selecting your tomatoes from the bin, this only bruises them even more. Also, please always keep the tomatoes upside down in the bin, with their stems facing the floor. This distributes the weight of the tomato more evenly, reducing the bruising caused from their own weight. I will steal a few words from my coworker Nicole Sugerman, who explains heirloom tomato history:
In Nicole’s last Shuttle article, she discusses heirlooms quite eloquently:
““Heirloom” is a label given to open-pollinated vegetables (meaning you can save seed from these tomatoes and grow the same type of tomato from it the next year) grown before World War
I. During the first world war, innovations and changes in food distribution and eating habits meant that food was being shipped farther and stored for longer; during this era, the modern supermarket came into prominence, meaning food was standardized, consolidated, and distributed en masse.
These changes had great implications for plant breeding. Vegetables began to be selected for traits such as hardiness during shipping, uniformity of appearance, and shelf life. In contrast, vegetables bred before this time were instead selected for traits like taste, texture, and interesting appearance.
While we can and do grow heirloom varieties of every vegetable available, the difference in taste and quality is perhaps most prominent for tomatoes. Heirloom tomatoes are notoriously fussy to grow; they produce fewer tomatoes per plant they get diseases easily, and the fruit cracks or bruises if you so much as touch it too hard. But the taste is so exceptional that it is all worth it. Moreover, growing heirloom tomatoes really embodies all the reasons for a food co-op to have its own farms, and illustrates the joy in re-localizing our food supply; heirloom tomatoes can only be grown either in a person’s backyard or in a farm very near where they are being sold, being virtually impossible
to ship or store for long periods of time.”

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