Do you have one of those years where you just can’t wait for something to come into season?
By Mark Mulcahy
This year it was organic tomatoes for me. I tried them in June… good color but not the flavor I wanted. I dabbled and sampled throughout July… Better, more consistent color but the flavor still didn't match what I was yearning for. Then in August, I finally started finding the colors, textures, and flavors I have been wanting for months.
And now in September, it is full game-on and it has been worth the wait. Big, round, firm, rich, juicy, ripe tomatoes that are bursting with flavor and begging to be eaten. Melissa’s selection of colors and flavors during these dog days of summer is unsurpassed with heirlooms for salad, Roma's for grilling and sauce, or beefsteaks the size of a softball for fresh tomato sandwiches. Hmmm, hmmm good!
Start by loading up on Melissa’s organic heirlooms, such as my favorites:
Black Krim – Dark red with greenish tops, these have a sweet and savory flavor, great for sandwiches and sauce.
BrandyWine – this Amish heirloom variety dating back to the late 1800s. A bit fragile but worth the extra care.
Or even some yellow ones like:
Marvel Stripe – a great late season heirloom that is usually large, has yellow-orange fruit with red stripes and is sweet and fruity.
You get the idea.
Then move on to Melissa’s Roma tomatoes and start thinking about easy sauce and salsa making recipes. There is nothing like the taste of homemade tomato sauce/salsa and in these budget-conscious times when we are all looking for ways to stretch our dollars, I’m sure you will appreciate the opportunity to try something made in your own kitchen.
And the list wouldn’t be complete without organic cherry tomatoes, right?
Choose from a whole slew of these multicolored beauties. I love this time of year because you can mix and match, Red Pear, Sun Gold, Sweet 100, Yellow Currant or a host of many others. Popped in your month as a snack, added to a salad or a sauté, any way you enjoy them, you’ll taste a bit of summer sunshine in every bite.
When you head to the market to pick this Melissa organic summertime delight, make sure to remember these simple rules to choose the best tomatoes:
Take a Look - Look your fruit over closely. Make sure it is free of blemishes and bruises and has a deep, brightly colored skin – dull looking tomatoes will have less flavor.
Not by Color Alone - During certain times of the year, supermarket tomatoes are often picked while they’re still green, which makes them more durable for shipping at the cost of flavor. They ripen in transit, which isn’t uncommon once a tomato has been picked, but some tomatoes are sprayed with ethylene gas to speed up ripening – which, again, will get you a full colored tomato but it won’t give you the satisfying flavor your taste buds are waiting for. It’s best to buy them from a market that has a direct relationship with the grower or ones with a label that reads “vine-ripened.”
Give a Little Bit - When cupped in the palm of your hand, a good tomato is firm enough to resist pressure, but not so hard that it doesn’t react to your touch. It should be heavy for its size as juicier tomatoes are denser, while unripe tomatoes will feel lighter. Check it out next time you are shopping – you’ll be surprised at the difference.
There’s a tomato for everyone’s taste, color and texture preference, so dive in! We have a full two months to revel in these delicious gifts of summer.
Give Them a Whiff - The old saying that “the nose knows” is true with tomatoes. For the best fruit, smell the tomato at the stem end – it should have a strong, sweet, earthy odor. The more fragrant the smell, the more flavor waiting for you inside.
Grilling Tip - With all of the wonderful Melissa’s organic heirlooms, slicers, and cherry tomatoes around right now it is easy to overlook the oval-shaped Roma for something other than sauce. If you want to throw some tomatoes on the grill, Romas may be your best bet as their firm texture and rich flavor make them perfect for grilling.