Love Apples

Why heirloom tomatoes steal our hearts

By Todd Knoll

Supermarket tomatoes may be perfectly uniform and beautifully red in color, but they’ve got nothing on the lopsided wonder of heirloom tomatoes. Bursting with favor and available in a kaleidoscope of brilliant colors—from flaming red to deep purple to yellow-striped green—heirlooms are defined by their seeds, which are passed down from season to season. Not just any seeds will do; through careful selection, farmers save them from the best plants each year, selecting for attributes like color, size, shape and juice content.

To say that we love heirloom tomatoes at Jordan is an understatement. We normally grow around 25 different varieties in our Estate Garden— they’re a beloved staple of our annual Harvest Lunch buffet—but last year, we couldn’t resist ramping it up to 40. This bounty gives us a wonderful palette of colors, textures and tastes to work with in creating summer and fall salads, consommés and sauces. Baker Creek Seed Company and local tomato gurus are my favorite sources for new seeds each spring.

I love the brandywine variety, but my mouth waters at the thought of the brightly acidic green zebra. For flavor in salads, I really like using red currant tomatoes, because they’re like tiny jewels. With the flavor and ripening diversity of heirloom tomato varieties available today in Sonoma County, we can use fresh tomatoes in our cooking from June through early November.

Learn more about Todd’s favorite heirloom tomatoes that he is planting this year.