Blackberry Farm

Friends of the Farm

Tomato Season

When considering all of summers bountiful produce, there are many favorites that come to mind, including sweet corn, watermelon, new potatoes, English peas, cucumbers, and a host of others.  

During my 12 years of farming here at Blackberry Farm I have had the honor of visiting with many guests and when the subjects of farm fresh produce comes up tomatoes almost always finish at the top of the list.

The tomatoes that we talk about are the “real ones”, the heritage varieties that your mother and father ate, and their parents before them.  These tomatoes are filled with the old time flavors that bring back so many memories of times when all tomatoes tasted like real tomatoes.  

In old varieties the acid level is much higher and is balanced with just the right amount of sweet flavor.  These tomatoes are overflowing with “tomato juice”, they are the ones that cause you to lean over your plate or the kitchen sink while enjoying your tomato sandwich.  A bit of advice here; A “real tomato sandwich” is best made with one of the heirloom varieties such as brandywine.  The best bread to use is the most common one, just plain old white bread with plenty of mayonnaise and salt and pepper to taste.  

Two years ago we had a guest here at Blackberry who was celebrating her 107th birthday.  As a child she had lived on her parents farm and during her visit to the garden she recognized many of the old varieties that we were growing.  One of the tomatoes that I showed her was the ponderosa tomato which is a large pink variety that was introduced in 1889.  When I asked her if she remembered the ponderosa she replied “oh my dear, I haven’t thought about that in 80 years!”

In our summer garden we feature anywhere from 25 to 50 heirloom varieties.  During August which is “Garden Month” we feature a tomato tasting event down at the garden which consists of sliced tomato varieties with sea salt added according to taste.

One of the favorite varieties is the pink oxheart, which dates back to at least 1900.  Under ideal growing conditions the oxheart tomato can weigh up to two pounds with few seeds thick flesh.  Another favorite with guests is the Gulf State, a medium sized pink tomato with a wonderful rich flavor.  The Gulf State was a commercial market tomato introduced in 1921 when tomatoes still had the great taste that we have come to expect from the old varieties that resemble anything but “real” tomato.  A slice of styrofoam might well describe a modern tomato.

John Coykendall, Master Gardener