Nina’s Tips & Techniques: Local Harvest featuring Heirloom Tomatoes

Everyone talks about “heirloom tomatoes” – what exactly does that mean?

Heirloom tomatoes are tomatoes grown from “heirloom seeds,” meaning the seeds are saved and passed down season after season. Heirloom tomatoes are never genetically modified and they are open-pollinated. Heirlooms typically have very distinct and intense flavors. They are also sometimes “ugly” (or gorgeously asymmetrical and in a variety of colors) since they have not been hybridized to be perfectly round and smooth and red. Heirlooms come in a variety of sizes, shapes, colors, and flavors. They are totally amazing and I spend my summer eating as many as I can!

My tomatoes always get soft and moldy so fast – am I storing them incorrectly?

Tomatoes are a very temperamental fruit! Store them stem end down in a shady area of your kitchen. They are also very fruit fly prone, so cover them with a small piece of cheesecloth to prevent flies from landing on them.

Whenever I make a tomato salad it gets all soggy. How do I keep them nice and firm?

Tomatoes are mostly water and the minute you cut them they will start to break down. I have two tricks I use to keep them as firm as possible:

  1. Cut them last, right before you eat them. If you’re preparing a big dinner wait until right before you serve to chop your tomatoes.
  2. Oil before salt! Salt draws moisture out of whatever it is sprinkled on. Oil and water don’t mix, so coat your tomatoes with olive oil first, and then sprinkle salt. This will keep the salt from dissolving and reduce the amount of water that gets drawn out.

Featured Recipe: Heirloom Tomato and Roasted Eggplant Salad with Smoked Mozzarella