Heirloom tomatoes are a go-to at farmers markets or in CSA subscriptions. What exactly is an heirloom tomato and what are the best ways to enjoy them?
Heirloom tomatoes are non-hybrid plants, where the seeds are passed from season to season and are often open-pollinated (or pollinated naturally by birds / insects and the like). They have a shorter shelf life, which is why they are so hard to come by in stores, and are less disease-resistant. They often come in a rainbow of colors and shapes – a far cry from the conventional matching tomatoes you often find in grocery stores.
Heirloom tomatoes come into season in our CSA in mid-August and run for roughly a month. I find ways to use fresh and freeze heirlooms during the short window that they are in-season. Here are some of my favorites.
Easy Roasted Tomato Marinara Sauce | Recipe by Seasons & Suppers
Get the recipe here. This is a wonderful way to make a small quantity of tomato sauce to use right away or to freeze for use in the next six months. No need to boil and skin the tomatoes – you bake on a sheet pan and the skin just pulls right off. A quick blitz in a blender or food processor and you have yourself a flavorful summer tomato sauce that’s ready to use or freeze. You can simply fill and freeze wide-mouthed canning jars for up to six months. Make sure to leave a bit of room at the top (some brands have a fill line right on the jar) in case of expansion. I also recommend filling your jars and letting them chill in the refrigerator before moving to the freezer. One pan of tomatoes as pictured makes about 16-24 oz. of tomato sauce (1-1 1/2 jars).
Ridiculously Easy Focaccia Bread | Recipe by The Cafe Sucre Farine
Get the recipe here. Focaccia is one of those things I love buying at the store, but I always assumed that making was beyond my skill level. This recipe is super easy to make (shockingly) and is the perfect template for adding fresh heirloom tomatoes and herbs. I used a mix of parsley and of course, fresh basil. This is great by itself, as a side dish or – I honestly ended up eating it for breakfast a few times with a fried egg. It’s versatile.
Bruschetta with Heirloom Tomatoes, Olives and Basil | Recipe by Yummly
Get the recipe here. This recipe hardly needs an introduction… everyone who likes tomatoes knows that heirloom tomatoes are the MOST flavorful and that fresh bruschetta is one of the most satisfying ways to enjoy them. You can omit the olives from this recipe if you’re not into them, but I loved the salty taste the olives brought and the sweetness of the balsamic. Don’t let anyone tell you bruschetta is an appetizer! I permit you to eat as many pieces as you’d like for dinner!
Herbed Butter Heirloom Tomato Pizza | Recipe by Half-Baked Harvest
Get the recipe here. This pizza features an herbed butter and tomatoes – no cheese, no meat (although you can add some if you’d like!). Desite having a short ingredient list, the flavor on this recipe is phenomenal. Make a crust from scratch or buy a pre-made one at the grocery store. There’s no wrong way to make a homemade pizza.
Patty Pan Squash Panzanella | Recipe by Love and Lemons
Get the recipe here. This recipe is a little bit of prep work as you need to cut your bread in advance and let it get a bit stale. If you use bread that is too fresh, it will get soggy in this salad. We bought a loaf of bread at the farmers market, cut it into cubes the next day and let it sit out for a day before using. Perfectly crunchy and didn’t get soggy in the salad! Make use of pattypan squash or zucchini that are in season with this light and fresh salad and fresh heirloom tomatoes take this recipe to the next level of flavor. We served our Panzanella alongside a steak (so easy to grill the pattypan squash in the grill pan to the side of the steak – multitasking!!).