Tastiest tomatoes

Local chefs weigh on in their favorite heirloom tomatoes

July 11, 2012 

  • If you go Palmetto Tasty Tomato Festival When: 5-9 p.m. Sunday, VIP potluck at 4 p.m. Where: City Roots, 1005 Airport Blvd., in Rosewood Tickets: $10 in advance, $15 at gate, $20 Supporter ticket plus covered dish for VIP tomato potluck. Buy in advance at tastytomato2012.eventbrite.com Parking: Free. Airport Boulevard will be closed in front of City Roots between Jim Hamilton Boulevard and Commerce Boulevard. Accessible parking at Aramark lot. What else: Live music, food trucks, beer, wine, tomato tasting, Bloody Mary bar, games (tomato bobbing, anyone?), crafts and more
    Have a tasty tomato? Homegrown Tomato contest Enter your tomatoes in one of these categories: Best Red, Best Yellow, Best Purple, Best Small, Best Unusual, Public Garden (school, church, community) and Grown by a Child Deadline: Entries due today. Drop off tomatoes noon-6 p.m. at All-Local Farmers Market, 711 Whaley St.

I have to fess up and admit that the tomato, in its most raw form, is not my favorite fruit or vegetable. There’s just something about cutting one open and seeing that jelly and juice that reminds me of brains. Sorry. It’s 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 I’ll 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. She’s been picking and eating fruit for months now.

If this sounds like you, then you can’t miss the Palmetto Tasty Tomato Festival at City Roots this Sunday.

In its third year, this event has caught the public’s imagination and turnout has grown every year. It’s 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, I’ve asked four tomato aficionados about their favorite heirloom tomato variety. Here’s 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.

What’s 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

What’s 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.

What’s 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

What’s 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.

Details: sustainablemidlands.org

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