I missed the Memo ...

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by Iceman, Jul 24, 2012.

  1. Iceman

    Iceman

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    I could use some education about "heirloom tomatoes".   I always thought they just looked different, and that made them cool.  I never picked up that they were either good or better for any given situation, other than looking cool on salads.   Please help a guy out here with some discussion. TIA for contributing to this thread. 
     
  2. eastshores

    eastshores

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    Heirlooms are simply tomatoes that are "vintage" .. I don't know if there is a standard to qualify a tomato or any other vegetable as vintage. Many hybrid varieties have been produced to increase yield, resist disease, insect pests, etc. The idea with heirlooms is that they are more flavorful than common hybrid varieties but due to their lack of disease resistance and often lesser shelf life they aren't commercially viable for mass markets. As you point out, appearance is also something desirable.
     
  3. french fries

    french fries

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    Have you ever had one? Some of them taste completely different. Just a different variety. There are heirloom everything, not just tomatoes. I just bought some heirloom nectarines, they are green, and they taste different from your regular variety nectarine. Same with tomatoes or any other heirloom variety. 
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2012
  4. kaneohegirlinaz

    kaneohegirlinaz

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    Ya' know Iceman, it's so funny that you bring up that topic of Heirloom Tomatoes...

    Mister K~girl and I went to visit with friends this past weekend that was a vary lengthy discussion at the dinner table one night (and they think that they're not foodies!).

    Myself, I REALLY do not care for Tomatoes or many Tomato products, but I can pick out the best one in the bins!

    So I Googled and I found that they are so many cultivars in numerous shapes and colors and flavors.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heirloom_tomato

    Then on top of that, I had watched a TV program were one of those TV Chefs did all of this stuff with just Heirloom Tomatoes.  You know the show where the Chef learns the product from the top down with the promise to make them an unforgettable meal from the product.
     
  5. chicagoterry

    chicagoterry

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    I'm sure you know that most tomatoes you can buy in the average grocery store or fruit market have been bred to turn red when exposed to ethylene gas and to ship well, rather than for flavor.

    There was a book earlier this year called Tomatoland which describes how and why commercially grown tomatoes have come to be the flavorless wonders they are today.

    Many modern hybrids for the home grower have been developed for traits other than flavor--like short growing cycles, appearance, heat or disease tolerance, compact growth habit, etc.

    Lots of the old heirloom varieties are extremely flavorful and are often quite tender-skinned. Many of them are downright unattractive, as they are prone to conditions modern varieties are bred to avoid. 

    I see that you live in "Chicagoland." If you live in the city, the farmers' market on Armitage east of Halsted on Saturdays has a farmer who grows and sells at least a dozen heirloom varieties at prices that are much more reasonable than I've found for fresh tomatoes at any of the other farmers' markets I've been to in the city. I've been on a quest for years to find tomatoes that taste like the tomatoes we grew at home when I was a kid and most of his varieties are wonderful. This year I got a community garden plot with a friend and we're trying to grow a few heirlooms but unfortunately the heat this year has caused a couple of the old varieties to drop their blossoms without setting fruit. It makes me want to weep every time I think about it.
     
  6. chefross

    chefross

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    Several years ago I purchased a couple packages of heirloom tomato seeds. I thought they'd be really cool, with yellow and red marbling on the skins.

    They grew poorly, and the yield was less than stellar, but the flavor of them were awesome. I saved the seeds and have since been continuing the strain 2 years now

    This years seems to be the best ever. At present I have 16 tomatoes on the one plant alone.  Here's hoping.

    On another note.......can I save the seeds from tomatoes purchased at a farm stand and start my own heirlooms?
     
  7. chicagoterry

    chicagoterry

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    One of the few things about using the term "heirloom" that most people seem to agree on is that the variety cannot be a hybrid--which means that saved seeds should breed true. So, yes, you should be able to grow plants from seeds you've saved. I would make sure to save seeds from your strongest producing plants.
     
  8. eastshores

    eastshores

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    Unfortunately, without proper isolation tomatoes will cross-pollinate like any other plant/vegetable in the same family. If you are intent on maintaining an exact heirloom variety from one crop to the next (saving seeds), do not plant other tomatoes nearby.. unless of course you are interested in possibly cultivating a new "heirloom" variety. I think I'll call my custom cultivar "Ugly Stump Stink 'Mater" .. anyone want to buy some seeds? /img/vbsmilies/smilies/biggrin.gif
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2012
  9. gonefishin

    gonefishin

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    Hi IceMan!

     KYH is really an authority on the subject.  Perhaps searching through some of his posts can give you an idea of the differences.  In my view, from a flavor profile...some varieties of tomatoes have very different flavor profiles (acidity, sweetness, complexity).  When I look for new tomatoes to grow 'm looking for a group of tomatoes that vary in their flavor profile...I've had better luck finding the wider differences in flavor growing heirlooms. 

    Here's one of the early groups of this years harvest


    Tomatoes ala nothing added...


    I don't have any current pictures of the garden, but here's one from about 30 days ago.  Now the plants are spilling over the top of the large cages. 

    I can't wait for my romanesco broccoli to come in...it's taking sooooo long!


    Dan
     
  10. Iceman

    Iceman

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    That is cool looking stuff.    My question is really based on the idea of "better taste and/or better uses in situations".  Are they still just tomatoes?  I would pick different tomatoes for different uses; hamburgers, salads, pizza sauce, marinara sauce, ketchup.  Are heirloom tomatoes better for anything, or just cool looking?    TIA for continued conversational contributions. 
     
  11. french fries

    french fries

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    Are red potatoes better than russets?
     
  12. Iceman

    Iceman

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    Brilliant answer.  Thank you for your contribution.

    I would not use the same type of tomato for pizza sauce as I would to put on a hamburger or that I would put in a salad.  Maybe you would, but that's you.  I am a professional chef and you are ... well, you are you.
     
  13. french fries

    french fries

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    You're welcome IceMan! /img/vbsmilies/smilies/smile.gif  I knew my metaphor would help you put things in perspective: in my earlier answer to this thread I explained that heirloom are simply different varieties, so just like the red potatoes vs the russets, or just like the different apple varieties, a variety doesn't necessarily taste better than another: they just have different tastes. 
    Then as a professional you owe it to yourself to spend a few $$ on a couple of different variety heirloom tomatoes and taste them. Your palate will answer all the questions you may have. 

    And FWIW, I personally reserve the better tasting heirloom tomatoes to eat raw, sometimes plain, as you would eat a fruit, other times sliced, sprinkled with fleur de sel and drizzled with a little olive oil. 
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2012
  14. chicagoterry

    chicagoterry

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    Iceman--

    Check out this website. They are Illinois farmers who raise heirloom tomatoes and sell at the Hinsdale Farmers' Market on Wednesdays. (As a city girl I tend to think everything in the land beyond O'Hare is "sort of" close together, so forgive me if Hinsdale is miles and miles from you.)  Click on their "fruits and vegetables" button and you will get a list of some of the varieties they grow with descriptions.

    http://www.nicholsfarm.com/
     
  15. Iceman

    Iceman

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    This is a much different, and much better received answer: 
    If I really wanted to go out and buy said tomatoes, try them and then make my own opinion, then I would have done just that.  When it comes time for me to use then I will do just that.  At present, I chose to use this BULLETIN BOARD for it's intended function ... wait for it ............ CONVERSATION.

    Thank You Chicago Terry.    Hinsdale is, depending on traffic, 5-15 minutes away. I may go look tomorrow. 
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2012
  16. french fries

    french fries

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    Me too IceMan. You asked for education, and said you thought the tomatoes only looked different - so I tried to answer to you that yes, heirloom taste different, just like different variety apples or different variety potatoes. 
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2012
  17. Iceman

    Iceman

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    I truly apologize for my complete lack of clairvoyance ... but this didn't tell me very much.  Now I'm not at all saying that it wasn't a valuable reply, it was just a little thin in the direction I am looking for help. 
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2012
  18. french fries

    french fries

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    Apologies accepted, no problem IceMan - glad to help anyway I can! /img/vbsmilies/smilies/smile.gif
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2012
  19. chicagoterry

    chicagoterry

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    Iceman-

    I think they're only at the Hinsdale market on Wednesdays. I think Saturdays they do the Green City Market in Lincoln Park---which is huge, expensive and amazingly beautiful.
     
  20. Iceman

    Iceman

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    OK. So much for that Idea. 
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2012