Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Heirloom Yellow Pear Tomatoes + Mustard Vinaigrette

This afternoon, after L and I got home from work, the dog and I spent a few minutes on our front porch enjoying the last bit of sunshine for the day. The porch is large enough for a nice container garden, and over the past few years we've managed to grow all sorts of things out there, despite the pup's occasional pruning.

Herbs are a given for us, and we always seem to end up with a wacky assortment of flowers. I definitely go for the unusual ones- I am currently eyeing the
toad lilies at our local garden center, and I'm thrilled that our passion flowers are blooming again this year.

I'd love to grow roses, but we rent our apartment, and I have a hard time with the thought that we may someday have to leave them behind. I've thought about trying my hand at growing vegetables, but we get so many from our CSA (more on that next week) that I've decided to forgo those. For now, anyway.

Last year, I started tomato seeds in regular old highball glasses at the beginning of January (I honestly don't know where I found the energy for that!), transplanted them to big pots in May, and in July we began to harvest a bumper crop of sweet heirloom Yellow Pear Tomatoes.

There seems to be some argument about what constitutes an heirloom plant. Some people say it has to be at least 100 years old, others say only 50; some say it should have originated before 1945, others say before 1951. In any case, everyone agrees that to call a plant an heirloom variety, it must have been originally bred using classic breeding practices (i.e. not genetic modification) and open-pollinated (i.e. naturally- by birds, insects, and wind).

I wholeheartedly recommend this variety of tomato; give the seeds extra time to germinate and sprout in the winter if you can, transplant them to a sunny spot after the last frost in your area, and make sure they get enough water. With very little effort on your part, you can eat tomatoes all through summer and long into the fall. We ate as many as we could and did our best to freeze the rest.

I like these tomatoes two ways, the first being very simple: toss a few pints of tomatoes with sea salt and olive oil, perhaps some sprigs of thyme, and roast them in any pan at 425'F until slightly deflated and wrinkled. Roasting brings out their sweetness, and they're almost as good as a warm tomato straight off the vine.

For those craving a good tomato salad, I'll share another favourite of mine. Slice up a few pints of tomatoes (mixed varieties, if possible), cutting large tomatoes into wedges and small tomates in halves. These can sit out at room temperature for an hour or two. Never refrigerate tomatoes- it makes them go mealy. When you're ready to serve, toss the tomatoes with your favourite dressing- I love Ina Garten's Mustard Vinaigrette in this dish. If you're worried about the raw egg in this vinaigrette, you can substitute a tablespoon of good mayonnaise so you don't lose the lovely creaminess of the dressing.

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