I got up early this morning and walked five blocks to the Sarasota Farmer’s Market. This market is held every Saturday and is about four blocks long. Almost all of the produce offered is locally grown and the lion’s share is organic. It’s located next to Whole Foods Market, so if I don’t find what I want on the street, I can just stop by WFM on the way home.
My major find today was a stand selling Heirloom tomatoes. An heirloom is generally considered to be a variety that has been passed down through several generations of a family. The definition of the use of the word heirloom to describe plants is highly debated. For instance, one school says that the seeds must be over 100 years old, others 50 years, and others pick an arbitrary date of 1945 which marks the end of World War II and roughly the beginning of widespread hybrid use by growers and seed companies or industrial agriculture. It was after the end of World War II that hybrid seeds began to proliferate in the commercial seed trade.
Whatever the accepted definition, I can tell you that my definition is simply DELICIOUS. When my sisters and I were kids, my Nanny and Grandpa retired and moved to rural Michigan, where Grandpa immediately planted a huge vegetable garden on the rear acreage. We spent hours in that garden with Grandpa, learning all about various fruits and vegetables. Some days we’d come home smeared red from raspberries we’d eaten off the bush. Other days Grandpa would pick Kohlrabis, peel and cut them right there in the garden, and grin as he watched us bite into the crisp, juicy, but slightly hot root vegetable that we’d never tasted before. But my favorite memory is picking gigantic Beefsteak tomatoes off the vine, sitting cross-legged on the loamy soil with a warm tomato and a salt shaker, and eating until we couldn’t take another bite. Those were the most delicious tomatoes – sweet and meaty – not too juicy – and with a rich flavor that you just don’t get from store-bought tomatoes these days.
To my astonishment, the heirloom tomatoes were just as tasty as those farm-bred tomatoes of my youth. They come in all shapes and sizes – from tiny cherry tomatoes to large beefy varieties – and in all colors, including a dark purple. Over the last few years I’ve stopped eating tomatoes and I now know the reason – they taste like cardboard. But these Herilooms – well, I’ve got them sitting on the counter in a colander and I’ve been eating them all day long. I think I died and went to heaven.