I have to fess up and admit that the tomato, in its most raw form, is not my favorite fruit or vegetable. Theres just something about cutting one open and seeing that jelly and juice that reminds me of brains. Sorry. Its true.
That feeling has not, however, stopped me from growing them in my garden.
I have a couple of romas, a few varieties of heirlooms and a volunteer Sungold cherry-type tomato that Ill use to make salsa or sauté with shrimp or roast in the oven.
My sister, Shari, truly my opposite, has five raised beds filled with various heirloom tomato plants. Shes been picking and eating fruit for months now.
If this sounds like you, then you cant miss the Palmetto Tasty Tomato Festival at City Roots this Sunday.
In its third year, this event has caught the publics imagination and turnout has grown every year. Its a great way to enjoy the taste and smell of fresh tomatoes and learn the difference between those things you find in grocery stores and a true local, homegrown tomato.
With that in mind, Ive asked four tomato aficionados about their favorite heirloom tomato variety. Heres what they said:
Kristian Niemi, Rosso Trattoria Italia, Trenholm Plaza
Favorite heirloom variety: Purple Cherokee and some golden varieties
What makes it your favorite? A perfect balance between sweet and a very tomato-y taste. The colors of the Purple Cherokee, the combination of green and purple, looks great on a plate.
Whats the best way to enjoy a fresh tomato? Sliced with a bit of salt and fresh pepper and drizzled with good olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Or oven roasting. Oven roasting removes some of the juice and really intensifies the flavor.
Katie McKinney, Rosewood Market
Favorite heirloom variety: Cherokee Blacks and Brandywine
What makes it your favorite? Good tomato taste, meaty with not as many seeds as other varieties
Whats the best way to enjoy a fresh tomato? A caprese salad is the best... slice a garden fresh tomato, fresh basil leaves and mozzarella cheese, lay the tomato and mozzarella slices on a plate with the basil, drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper.
Kevin Brumfield, Rosewood Market
Favorite heirloom variety: Mortgage Lifter
What makes it your favorite? Good balance of sweet and acid, really meaty with juice pockets. Large fruit, 1- to 5-pound tomatoes. My grandfather grew this variety so I grew up eating them.
Whats the best way to enjoy a fresh tomato? Sliced fresh and seasoned with salt and pepper
Tim Peters, Motor Supply Company Bistro
Favorite heirloom variety: Cherokee Blacks
What makes it your favorite? Consistently sweet and juicy variety
Whats the best way to enjoy a fresh tomato? Sliced with salt and pepper, olive oil and balsamic vinegar
How to roast a tomato
Oven roasting is a simple technique that will intensify the flavor of the tomatoes. You can serve the finished roasted tomatoes as a side dish or add them to a sauce or soup recipe.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Slice your tomatoes in half and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet, cut sides up.
Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. If you prefer, add a drizzling of balsamic vinegar, a pinch of sugar and a couple of cloves of chopped garlic to taste.
Roast tomatoes 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and serve warm.