Let's talk tomatoes

Seasonal Eats Recipe Round-Up: 7/18/12

Let’s talk tomatoes.

Here on the farm, we’re growing 30 varieties of tomatoes. Like most, that variety includes a combination of hybrid and heirloom tomatoes. Now if you’re thinking, what’s the difference between the two? What’s the big deal about heirloom tomatoes? then please allow me to elaborate after you scroll past this cute picture of my roommate (and coworker) Amy holding “seconds” heirlooms.

Let's talk tomatoes

To quickly touch on that, heirloom means a valuable object that has belonged to a family for several generations — something that’s been passed down. In this sense of the word, heirloom seeds are varieties that have been passed down through several generations because of their valued characteristics (i.e., adaptation to specific growing conditions and climates; evolved resistance to pests and diseases). Think of it as though your grandmother grew tomatoes in her garden, saved some seeds from her favorite tomatoes, and passed them down to your mother, who in turn grew her own garden, saved her own seeds and passed them down to you. You can grow the exact same tomatoes your grandmother did! Heirlooms are prized for their diversity of taste, nutrition and color, but are more susceptible to diseases, can have smaller, later yields and are as ugly as they are tasty (heirlooms are known for splitting, cracking and getting easily beaten-up).

Meanwhile, hybrid tomato seeds are cross-bred to make tomatoes that encompass the best qualities (good looks and disease resistance) of multiple types of tomatoes. If you save the seeds of a hybrid and plant them, the next generation’s tomatoes will not be true to the parent, so it requires buying new seeds each season for consistency. Hybrids can make for just as wonderful tomatoes as heirlooms; however, growing hybrid tomatoes often means buying new seeds each year. This means understanding the politics and knowing the good seed guys from the bad seed guys—so that biodiversity is preserved.

So the big deal with heirloom tomatoes is that they are all they are cracked up to be (vegetable dork humor, sorry)! Superior in taste, aesthetic and downright coolness, heirlooms

So to recap, the big deal with heirloom tomatoes is that they’re tried-and-true seeds from way back when, and they just so happen to produce some of the tastiest tomatoes ever. Meanwhile, hybrid tomatoes can still taste nice, but smaller guys been scientifically cross-bred to be heartier and less prone to disease.

But as easy as it is to go on and on with this, that’s enough tomato talk for now.

Let’s dive into what our CSA folks got in their shares (and what should be in season if you live in the mid-Atlantic):

  • Basil
  • Radicchio or Dandelion Greens
  • Lettuce
  • Carrots or Beets
  • Onion or Shallots
  • Cherry Tomatoes or Heirloom Tomatoes
  • Garlic
  • Summer Squash/Cucumbers
  • Jalapenos

To accompany those items, here are some recipes I suggest whipping up:

Dandelion Greens:

Let's talk tomatoes

  • Quinoa & Dandelion Greens w/ Apple-Honey Vinaigrette (uses garlic and carrots)
  • Dandelion-Ginger Tea
  • Dandelion-Barley Risotto (uses garliconion & summer squash)
  • Dandelion & Caramelized Carrot Salad (uses garlic and onion)
  • Chicken Salad w/ Roasted Beets & Dandelion Greens (uses shallots, which can be substituted with onion or garlic)
  • Dandelion Pesto (uses garlic)
  • Spicy Dandelion Greens (uses garlic)
  • Dandelion Green Salad w/ Beets & Feta
  • Dandelion Greens on Pizza
  • Carrot Dandelion Salad
  • Dandelion & Bean Quinoa Cakes (uses garlic and scallions, although shallots or sweet onion could be substituted; would be yummy topped with basil pesto!)
  • Wilted Dandelion Greens w/ Toasted Mustard Seeds  (uses shallots, could substitute onion or garlic; may also substitute sauteed tempeh for bacon)
  • Black Beluga Lentil Salad w/ Mushrooms, Dandelion Greens & Mustard Vinaigrette
  • Quinoa Dandelion Greens & Herbed Pistachio Vinaigrette (can substitute basil for parsley in the vinaigrette; uses garlic and shallots, can substitute beets or carrots for the bell pepper)
  • Eggs on Toast w/ Sauteed Dandelion Greens & Mushrooms (uses garlic)
  • Savory Greens, Tomatoes & Goat Cheese Tarts

Now let’s talk SALSA!

  • Fresh Salsas: 
    • TomatoBasil Salsa (uses garlic)
    • Cilantro-Free Salsa (use basil as the added herb)
    • Lemon-Basil Salsa (any type of tomato would work here, not just Romas; uses garliconion & jalapenos)
    • Cantaloupe-Basil Salsa (would pair nicely with fish or chicken; uses sweet onion and basil)
  • Cooked Salsas: 
    • Caramelized Peach & Onion Salsa (one for the bacon fans; uses basil)
    • Roasted JalapenoTomato Salsa w/ Fresh Cilantro (swap basil for cilantro for a great twist)
    • Warm Grilled Tomato Salsa (try served over pork tenderloin)
    • Roasted Corn Salsa
    • Grilled Peach Salsa
  • Canned Salsas (if you are an experienced canner, check out this post about large-scale salsa canning, complete with ingredient proportion charts, conversion charts and how to can with a group)
    • Roasted Tomatillo Salsa Verde (in case you have some tomatillos leftover from lastweek)
    • Zesty Salsa
    • Peach Salsa
    • Black Bean & Corn Salsa
    • A bevy of different salsa recipes from salsagarden.com