Ring the dinner bell and break out the salad spinner, because the heirloom tomatoes have arrived. Between the corn and Jersey tomatoes during mid-summer, these special varieties come into season.
Just what is an Heirloom Tomato?
“It’s a tomato that has never been hybridized,” said Long Season Farms owner Ken Jurow. “Hybridized means you can’t take the seed from a hybrid tomato and plant it; it won’t grow. The definition of a true heirloom is you can take the seed from the tomato, plant it and you’ll get the same exact tomato.”
Jurow is a big fan of heirlooms and takes great pains to grow several varieties on his farm.
“There are generally 100 plus year varieties that were bred back in the day only for flavor by people who weren’t interested in making money,” he explained. “It was not a business thing, which is the opposite of what’s gone on in the last 70 years. Today’s tomatoes are bred to be easy to pick, they last on the shelf, they’re hard so you can pick them green. Every possible “business” reason, that’s why they’re bred.”
Jurow’s heirloom tomatoes sit quietly on display at his farmstand. There’s no refrigeration, special lighting or packaging. Customers are advised not to handle them too much because of their delicate nature, but that’s about it.
“They’re about flavor, they’re not about anything else,” Jurow said. “People have lost touch with what things should actually taste like. They’re been conditioned by “Agri-Business” to think a good tomato is one that looks good on the outside and is hard as a golfball, that you can squeeze at the supermarket and it doesn’t bruise. If you squeezed an heirloom like a beefsteak, forget it, I’d have to throw it out the next day. They’re very delicate.”
Farms on the North Fork that sell Heirloom Tomatoes:
Garden of Eve Organic Farm and Market, 4558 Sound Avenue, Riverhead, NY 631-722-8777
Invincible Summer Farms (Charnews Farm), 300 Youngs Avenue, Southold, NY 631-283-3195
Long Season Farms, 1017 Main Road, Aquebogue, NY 631-779-3360
Sang Lee Farms, 25180 County Road 48, Peconic, NY 631-734-7001
Wells Homestead, 460 Main Road, Aquebogue, NY 631-722-3796