Love heirloom tomatoes? Get all the details you need to know, including nutritional benefits and tips for buying, storing, and cooking with them in this guide.
The prettiest of tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes are known for their distinct coloring, odd shapes, and sweet flavor. But what makes heirloom tomatoes separate from the others?
Heirloom tomatoes are the result of farmers planting the seeds from their best tomatoes the season before. This allows them to pick and choose more desirable traits, such as flavor, juiciness, size, shape and color.
However, they can also grow from seeds that are pollinated naturally by birds, insects, and wind.
Since heirloom tomatoes can come from a variety of tomato species, there isn’t one uniform taste, texture, or even color of heirloom tomatoes, which is why they can make even the simplest of recipes more interesting visually and flavor-wise than one made with standard tomatoes.
Nutritionally, heirloom tomatoes can vary greatly by species.
However, in general they are all good sources of vitamin C, iron, potassium, vitamin A, and lycopene – an antioxidant associated with decreased risk of certain cancers, particularly skin cancer.
The term “heirloom” isn’t regulated. As a result, some farms, especially larger ones, may use the term heirloom to hide the fact that the tomatoes are actually grown from genetically modified seeds or from less-than-desirable growing practices.
The best way to ensure flavorful heirloom tomatoes is by buying locally, ideally from a farmer’s market or from a store that sources locally grown produce.
As with other tomatoes, look for ones that are blemish-free, feel heavy for their size, and are firm with a little give when pressed.
For optimal flavor, keep heirloom tomatoes at room temperature and eat within a few days of buying them.
The best way to enjoy heirloom tomatoes in all their juicy glory is eating them raw. Tossed in olive oil and balsamic they make for a delicious salad or topper for crispy bread slices. They can also be sliced and added to wraps, sandwiches or burgers.
However, cooking can also bring out more of their natural sweetness. Slice and add to frittatas or quiches, add on top of a white pizza, or chop and saute with garlic for a simple pasta topping.
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