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August, 2011

Variety Abounds

By Mark Mulcahy

If you like Melissa’s organic tomatoes in salads, soup and sandwiches, then August is your month
.

You have a lot of organic tomatoes to choose from at Melissa’s. Orange, red and yellow clusters, grape and cherry tomatoes, Roma’s for sauce or grilling, yellow tomatoes, vine sweet strawberry tomatoes, and even Organic heirloom and baby heirloom tomatoes that provide a whole new taste sensation. I’m sure you have your favorite, as most of us do, but if you haven’t tried an heirloom yet you are in for a real treat. Heirlooms have an amazing diversity of flavors, shapes and sizes. These originate from every part of the globe and have interesting names as well. One of my favorites is the Black Krim from Russia, a dark reddish-brown tomato with green shoulders that has a sweet, smoky flavor. I love them sliced thick on a piece of whole grain bread with hummus. I could eat this everyday at lunch for weeks during the summer and fall. If you want to make your own hummus, check out Cheryl Forberg’s Roasted Red Pepper Hummus in the Sauces and Seasonings section of this website. It’s tasty, easy to make, and good to use for lunches or snacking. The Stupice tomato is a native of the Czech Republic and its small fruits are jam packed with flavor! Then there is the dark, deep red tomato known as Costoluto Genovese, which is a favorite Old Italian heirloom. The Polish Giant has mild flavor and big fruit. Some of these can weigh up to a pound and a half. The Druzba comes from Bulgaria. – this fruit has a great acidic flavor and is great for canning. The Omar’s Lebanese is a richly flavored, meaty, red tomato originating from a small town in Lebanon. Jaune Flammee from France is orange colored and has a refreshing sort of tangy flavor. Other Melissa’s heirloom favorites include Brandywine, Evergreen, Zebra and Jubilee. The list goes on and on. You could try a different tomato every day in August and September and still just barely scratch the surface. Get started now and you’ll be knowledgeable enough to impress your friends for National Tomato Month in October!
Variety of Tomatoes
So, what is an heirloom tomato? According to the tomato fest website http://www.tomatofest.com/, “An heirloom is generally considered to be a variety that has been passed down through several generations of a family because of its valued characteristics.” Heirloom tomato experts Craig LeHoullier and Carolyn Male, Ph.D., have classified heirlooms in four categories:

1. Commercial Heirlooms: Open-pollinated varieties introduced before 1940.

2. Family Heirlooms: Seeds that have been passed down for several generations through a family. Numerous stories from Ellis Island include those of Italian immigrants who came to America with only the smallest reminders of home on their back, but also made sure they brought seeds from their favorite tomato variety in the lining of their coat or pants pocket.

3. Created Heirlooms: Crossing two known parents (either two heirlooms or an heirloom and a hybrid) and dehybridizing the resulting seeds for however many years/generations it takes to eliminate the undesirable characteristics and stabilize the desired characteristics, perhaps as many as eight years or more.

4. Mystery Heirlooms: Varieties that are a product of natural cross-pollination of other heirloom varieties.

(Note: All heirloom varieties are open-pollinated but not all open-pollinated varieties are heirloom varieties.)” Now that you know what they are and some of their names, why not pull out the grill and add them to your next barbeque? Here’s an easy grilling recipe from http://www.tomatofest.com/, that uses a couple of Melissa’s organic summer favorites that would be an interesting appetizer or wonderful hot sandwich.

Grilled Eggplant, Tomato and Goat Cheese

You’ll need:
1 medium organic eggplant, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
2 large Melissa’s Organic Heirloom Tomatoes, sliced
1 (11 oz.) log of your favorite goat cheese
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste

What to do
Preheat grill for medium heat. In a large bowl, coat eggplant with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange half of the eggplant slices on a tray. Place a slice of tomato and a slice of goat cheese on each slice of eggplant. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on the tomatoes and cheese. Top with remaining slices of eggplant, and secure each bundle with a toothpick

Lightly oil the grill grate. Remove toothpicks, and arrange bundles on grate. Cook about 7 to 8 minutes, and then carefully flip. Continue cooking for 6 to 7 minutes. When they come off the grill, top with fresh basil leaves and viola, you are set. I have also used feta and blue cheese for this recipe, so let your imagination run wild. These would go perfectly with grilled corn on the cob and Melissa’s grilled organic peaches for dessert. If you haven’t tried grilled peaches, you are in for a treat, as quick cooking on the grill intensifies their natural sweetness.

Hear are some easy tips from localfoods.about.com:

Start with Melissa’s organic peaches that are firm with just a little give when you give them a gentle squeeze with your whole hand. Cut the peaches in half and pit them. You can grill entire peach halves or cut them into wedges. Peeling the peaches isn't necessary for the grill.

Brush cut side(s) of the peaches with neutral-tasting oil, like grape seed or canola. Cook peaches over a medium fire on both sides until grill marks show and peaches are tender, but not falling apart. You can serve alone or in a crisp salad of watercress. Or as mentioned earlier, they can be a perfect start to many delicious desserts.

Grilled peaches are great with yogurt, topped with whipped cream, or nestled under scoops of ice cream. Now if that doesn’t make you want to get out the grill I don’t know what will. After all, summer is here and the time is right for eating heirlooms and grilling a peach. At least I think that’s how the song goes…