Go down to your local supermarket and you’ll find what looks like a pretty impressive selection of tomatoes to choose between, except when you get down to it you realise they are all practically identical. This is because there is barely any infrastructure for supermarkets to support local farms, therefore we are being offered the mass-produced tomatoes that are covered in pesticides and all sorts of nasty things that preserve them and alter their natural flavours.
The tomatoes that you get fresh from a farm have a soft skin and there are a few generations of us who aren’t familiar with the fact that this is how they should be! Instead we are used to the firm skins of shop tomatoes that are created to help them travel well without becoming bruised and battered, and also to give them added shelf life.
We are all used to having cherry and vine tomatoes but the best tomatoes out there that are going to give you the most flavour and are heirlooms! Tomato season is upon us and therefore we are getting a wider selection to choose between and you can find a lot more heirloom tomatoes in specialist shops and fruit and veg stands. Heirlooms definitely stand out because of their looks and they also cost more than the usual supermarket tomatoes but why is this?
Well the reason for this is because heirlooms are the closest thing you are going to get to a traditional, natural tomato! If you were to ask a farmer or tomato expert then they will tell you that what is being grown and sold today barely resembles what tomatoes should look and taste like. If heirlooms vary in colour then you can also tell this in the taste too, yellow types are milder in flavour, whilst red heirlooms are more acidic.
If you were to can these tomatoes then you wouldn’t have to put anything else in them due to their natural acidic quality, but if you look at the ingredients list of a tin of tomatoes now, there will be numerous chemicals to not only preserve them but to also give them flavour! All the flavour of tomatoes that we get today is unfortunately created in a lab and with chemicals. What people don’t realise is that the tomato season is short and people have become accustomed to having them all year around, this simply isn’t possible to cater for in the UK’s climate so we get them from elsewhere or we get versions of tomatoes that are chemically enhanced.
All this makes heirloom tomatoes all the more special, yes there is an annual window of time where they are available but everything about them is unique and interesting. They come in all shapes and quirky sizes, you could make the most visually appealing tomato salad from a few different heirloom tomatoes, as no two are alike! If there was one piece of advice to give it would be to at least by organic tomatoes so you avoid as many of the pesticides and chemicals as possible.