I only eat tomatoes during the summer. I am sure they are great everywhere this time of year but in southern Louisiana, the big red Creole tomatoes are dizzying. I mainly eat them with salt and pepper or a little olive oil and some Balsamic vinegar. But, they really shine on a tomato sandwich. Good bread, mayo, salt and pepper and thick slices of tomato (I also like to put a few squash pickles on there, I am make them according to my grandmother's recipe).
I did not make it to the farmer's market this weekend so I went by Whole Foods to pick up a tri-tip steak and a few other things, tomatoes among them. The best-looking tomatoes in the place were a pile of varied heirloom ones. I grabbed 4 of the best looking examples, different colors, just getting ripe but not too mushy. As I was checking out I was shocked to see that the 4 tomatoes rang up at over $12.
Now, I know that Whole Foods is pricey but sweet fancy Moses, that is a lot to pay for tomatoes. I know that I should have looked at the price. In the end, all I could do was laugh and take them home, wiser for my new posh vegetables. I really don’t have a problem paying a premium for top notch or even rare items but $5 per pound just seems like an evil joke. This seems even more unusual when you consider that Hatch chilies are selling for $.99 per pound and they are far more unusual in Baton Rouge.
Thoughts? on price? on tomato sandwiches?
According to Carolyn Male's book "100 Heirloom Tomatoes For the American Garden", there are at least three types of heirlooms:
Commercial Heirlooms (introduced by seed companies before 1940),
Family Heirlooms (genetically stabilized by individual growers),
Created Heirlooms (by crossing with heirlooms and dehybridizing).
All are open pollinated, i.e. able to be reproduced from seeds.
Nothing prevents commercial growers from raising heirloom varieties developed by others as well as their more usual hybrids developed to produce more reliable and disease resistant plants. They may charge more for heirlooms because they often have lower yields.
Most lists of better tasting tomatoes include many more heirloom varieties than hybrids.
By the way, for tomato sandwiches, I like to add a little cheese and salad-type greens. I hope this is allowed by
the tomato police!
This time of the year here in Maryland the tomatos begin to ripen in abundance almost overnite...most often the best tomatos are those placed on a card table or picnic table at the side of the road, with simple a small basket for what ever you want to pay...strictly the honor system. Most gardeners can't use up what comes in everyday and really hate to see any go to waste.
One of the best meals I ever had was on mid summer afternoon
walking out to the pier with my crab net, dipping a soft crab off one of the pilings(doublers as they were called) taking it up to the house to have Mom clean and fry the crab, but on the way picking a nice sun warmed tomato out of the garden. By the time I had cleaned up for lunch the soft crab was ready, the tomato was sliced, the mayo was slathered, the lettuce was cleaned and all I had to do was assembly one terrific sandwich.
I have rarely bought a tomato anywhere that comes even close to the flavour and texture of a home grown. And I'm actually starting to feel a bit scammed by the term "heirloom". These tomatoes are obviously commercially grown. They require paid employees to plant and pick them; they must be packed and shipped; sold in wholesale lots; etc., etc. They are not, in my world, heirloom by any stretch of the imagination. I'm not saying you shouldn't buy them, I'm just getting a bit suspicious about the terminology. I ate a yellow tomato the other day at a friend's home which tasted just exactly like any other commercially grown tomato but she had paid some ungodly sum of money for it because it was labelled "heirloom". The actual word, as it is used to describe vegetables, has to do with the fact that these are older varieties, unsuitable for commercial marketing because they are oddly shaped, difficult to ship, tricky to grow, lower yielding, whatever. If they are growing them and selling them on a commercial scale, this can no longer be considered an heirloom, no matter that it was recently saved from extinction.
Also - be careful of farmers markets. There are many many vendors who buy their produce from wholesalers and sell them, posing as folksy farmers. I know for a fact there is a certain amount of deception going on. Oh, don't get me wrong, I shop at farmers markets myself, but you can't assume that the produce will really be home-grown and freshly picked unless you personally know the vendor.
If you buy an 'heirloom' tomato in a store on the west coast, I would bet it was shipped from the Sacramento, CA area. (The ones we get in Seattle come carefully packed from Yolo County, a tomato-centric ag area west of Sacramento, and home of UC Davis.) These may be wacky and wonderful varieties, but they have still traveled, were not picked ripe, and have probably spent time in cold storage somewhere along the way.
That's the problem with WF - everything looks good, but the prices are astronomical. Stick to the farmer's market from now on.
As for the tomato sandwich - like you, I keep it simple: nice slightly crusty bread, a thick slathering of mayo, salt and pepper on the thick slice of tomato and voila! I also like a good BLT as well.
oh, i know WF is expensive and that is fine. I'll pay a premium for a really exceptional item but these were just a mount of funny looking tomatoes and, if anything, less flavorful. Live and learn.
I thought my mom was going to cry when she got home and realized that she had spent $23 on about 3/4 of a pound of cherries. They were pretty tasty though
You just discovered why it's called Whole Paycheck by some. My early tomatoes are done, and the late/fall ones haven't started producing yet, so I'm in a homegrown tomato drought and was also tempted by those pretty heirlooms at WF. I saw the price sticker and quickly put 'em back! They're certainly not local tomatoes, and it just gave me another reminder to stick to the farmer's markets for that sort of produce.
A fine, late-summer, south LA tomato sandwich: on fresh french bread, layer thick sliced, salt-n-peppered tomatoes and crabmeat bound with just a little homemade mayo, chopped fresh tarragon, and a touch of hot sauce. Mmmmm....