My crop of heirloom tomatoes is finally in full swing! They are about three weeks late due to some chilly weather that hung around Portland this Spring. Then tack on another couple weeks from my “oops” this Spring when I realized I hadn’t been giving my seedlings enough hours under the grow light. At several intervals during their ripening this summer I thought, “Was this really worth it? Maybe I should have just sucked it up and bought some starts instead…” The short answer: the wait was worth it.

Although I won’t have nearly enough for mass canning expeditions, that wasn’t my intent to begin with. I planted ten tomatoes altogether and they were meant for fresh eating. If I have enough to can a couple jars of salsa, that is a bonus.

When it rains it pours in our garden, and it is definitely raining tomatoes with ten plants. I don’t mind having those months (like now) where we agree every meal we cook will use tomatoes, basil, or zucchini. Soon enough we will transition to true fall eating, where every meal we consume must include onions, potatoes, or pumpkin. It’s a strong reminder of just where we are in the season and those last glimpses of summer.

The tomatoes I grew this year are as fun to look at as they are to eat. There are two plants of each variety, and five varieties this year. Each one has it’s own unique appearance and flavor, which looks stunning when they are mixed together in a dish.

The pink accordion is a beautiful salmon pink and the rigids are really interesting to watch develop. Mine do not seem to be as watery as some beefsteak tomatoes. In fact, they are quite meaty. The Jersey giant has proven itself to be a very rich Roma tomato, with a deep red flesh. Please remind me next year to only plant one yellow pear tomato! I make the mistake of planting more than one every summer and then get completely overrun by this prolific produced. The tomatoes are sweet and delicious, but I prefer to have the different varieties produce similar yields so one doesn’t dominate the rest. The black cherry tomatoes are everything you would expect from a cherry tomato: sweet and juicy. And finally: the Copia. What a stunning tomato, with the red skin and yellow strips. The inside also shows the same coloration.

A mixture of these together in a meal is a kaleidescope of colors and flavors that only heirlooms can provide. Each tomato has it’s own slightly distinct flavor and richness, but mixed together it just creates a lovely depth. Our favorite way to enjoy these are thickly chopped with fresh basil, diced sweet onion, olive oil & vinegar with some salt and pepper. Simply lovely.

The chickens have recently discovered the wonders that are fresh homegrown tomatoes, so now my focus moves from waiting for the ripened tomatoes to defending the ripened tomatoes. They are just too good to share!

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Written by Renee Wilkinson