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Lew Larason: Thoughts from an Epicure

Heirloom tomatoes for growing and buying


Tomatoes probably are the most-grown plant in summer gardens. When I was young, we grew many vegetables in our gardens, all of which were used and enjoyed. However, I think tomatoes were the ones we looked forward to the most.
Along with sweet corn, which we grew to sell, tomatoes were the most abundant items in our gardens.
In late summer, my mother and an aunt canned tomatoes nearly every day. They’d spend hours in the hot kitchen preparing and canning them. But in the winter, as we enjoyed the tomatoes, they forgot the fuss and heat of preparing them.
Nearly everyone I know who has any space grows tomatoes. While visiting a new acquaintance, I noticed a bowl of heirloom tomatoes on the table. The acquaintance said he grows them in his garden.
A number of years ago, growers decided they had better start saving seeds from unaltered plants. The major growers had been altering tomato seeds to eliminate odd colors and shapes and to make all of them look alike and be “perfect” so they would appeal to the average buyer.
Now, heirloom tomato seeds can be purchased and planted by anyone who wants to grow and eat tomatoes that look and taste like ones from years ago. They may be odd shaped and have strange colors. But, they’re tasty and worth the effort.

Those nice people we visited gave us a few, including a red one with gold stripes called Stripey Roman. I’ve eaten heirlooms before, but had never seen or tasted this one. As expected, it was quite flavorful.
Along with the tomatoes, they gave us fresh basil from one of the largest plants I’ve seen in years. Their generosity was appreciated by Patti and me.
If you want to try Heirlooms, check out farmers’ markets. Also, many of the major supermarkets now offer them. I think that’s great.
Enjoy and stay safe!

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