Sunday, August 29, 2010

FFF: Peak of Season Tomato Festival

Chocolate Tomatoes 

This is another installment of Food Field Trip. When I found out that the Hollywood Farmers' Market was having a tomato festival this morning, I knew I had to go. It's no secret that tomatoes are my favorite food, meaning that I couldn't pass up a chance to taste countless varieties and worship at the altar (read: food stall) of the Heirloom. Plus I had been meaning to check out the HFM, which is ginormous and requires at least 2-3 hours of wander time to peruse. And that's on top of tomato tasting, photographing and watching a cooking demonstration by Chef Evan Kleiman of Angeli Caffe. She makes a mean sauce.

Before you read my impression of the vast variety of tomatoes I consumed today, keep two things in mind. First, I prefer my tomatoes highly flavorful and a bit on the tangy side. And second, I think tomatoes are hard to describe and I feel silly trying to describe them like people describe wine. Perhaps my palette isn't as sophisticated, or perhaps tomatoes really don't taste smoky or floral.





Marvel Stripe heirlooms are characterized by their yellowish-orange color with red stripes and indents. They have an intense, rich sweet taste that ends in a tart note. I think I'd call them fruity. Definitely the star of the dish, and definitely one of my favorites.






Black Crimson, or Krim, are sweet, with a hint of salty, but definitely mild enough not to overpower you or your dish. I found them to be quite unique and different from any tomato I had ever had. If you're interested, you're looking for a tomato that is a dark red maroon color with a deep forest green around the crimped top.


Cherokee Purple. I'm sure you've heard of these before--they seem to be the darling of the heirloom tomato world. Honestly? Not 100% impressed. They're fairly mild, minimally sweet, and the flesh was a little too soft for me. I prefer tomatoes with a little bit more bite and strength. Just look for mottled green, yellow, red in a funky and dimpled shape.








Valencias look like smaller orange Romas and don't really have the funky shapes and ridges that most heirlooms seem to have. I found them to be mild, but bursting with that traditional tomato taste if you know what I mean. They also kind of just melt in your mouth, which is a quality I have yet to encounter in other tomatoes.






Brown Derbys were amongst my favorites. They were so flavorful - tangy yet sweet, and insanely juicy. Apparently they're a cross between a darker, sweet heirloom and a tangier green heirloom, combining the strengths of both perfectly. These tend to be rounder with grooves, and a yellow-brownish color that borders on gold with green stripes.















German Stripes are oddly named, but I'm not questioning it. They vary in size and shape, but are covered in yellowish-orange and red stripes. I think these were the sweetest tomatoes I have ever tasted--they were almost dessert like. This would be amazing in a fruit salsa or as a sweet tomato soup.





Pineapple. Yes, Pineapple. I love the inside of these--the yellow, green, orange marbling. It's like a fiesta in tomato form. Google tells me that this is because half the tomato is yellow and the other half is red. Always. Would it be obnoxious to call them fruity? They had a very light sweet flavor and mostly fleshy. If you don't like seeds, these are for you.








Finley Farms of Santa Ynez, CA



Green Zebra. Another giant in the heirloom world, and another one of my favorites. I think this may have been my top tomato of the day. I don't know how to describe them--they're not particularly sweet, but they are certainly tangy. I overheard someone mention that there was just something at the end. I want to make salsa and sauce with these. I want to roast them and pop them in my mouth. I want to make a tomato sandwich--just these and some good, crusty bread. Yeah, I'm a fan.

Mixed Cherries. When you encounter a basket of these heirlooms at the store, you're in for a treat. These are my go-to snack. The red ones with a hint of green are delightfully tangy. The orange and yellow ones sweet and mellow. The bright red ones are a nice balance of sweet and tart and freshen up any dish.



Valdivia Farms of Carlsbad, CA




Mango. I know, what's with the tropical fruit? These were actually quite refreshing and amongst my favorite of the day. They were fruity and sweet, much like their namesake, but they end with a nice hint of acid. Look for tomatoes the color of a ripe mango with a reddish blush.




White Brandywine are up in the air. With their name, I mean. Some people say it's a misnomer and a variant of a different variety. I'm not so sure I care. These were dessert tomatoes, almost like eating grapes. As you can see in the picture, some are more of a light yellow color, while others are a pale greenish-white color. They tend to have larger ribs and vary in size.

The very first picture up at the way top is of Chocolate Tomatoes, with the shining star shaped like a heart. If you like chocolate, and you like tomatoes, you cannot resist this variety. Um, not that they taste like chocolate, but they're pretty damn good and have a great name. They have very strong, acidic and tangy flavor, with juicy firm flesh and very little seeds. If you're looking for these tomatoes, it's best you ask the farmer--they kind of look like Purple Cherokees and Black Krims. In fact, if you're curious about any variety, check with the farmer first--sometimes it's very hard to distinguish between different heirlooms and only the farm knows which seeds were used.

Mix of different Zebra heirlooms 

NOW GO EAT SOME TOMATOES!

27 comments:

The PĂȘche said...

Stunning photos. What a great post! The chocolate tomato was a total surprise.

Design Wine and Dine said...

Great post! Beautiful pictures, great descriptions - a true reference for people, thanks! Sounds like it was fun!

Frank said...

Wow, I'd love to try each and every one of these!

A SPICY PERSPECTIVE said...

Oh, I'd love to try the pineapple variety!

Subterfuge Diva said...

That last photo of the zebra heirlooms is so pretty, it made me pause for a while! You're so lucky to be able to taste these wonderful tomatoes. We don't have such a great variety here.

Stephanie Savors the Moment said...

Many thanks for sharing your tomato adventures! I adore heirloom tomatoes and am contemplating growing some this Fall. Thanks for the great info and your pictures are really gorgeous:)

Victoria K. said...

"Just when I thought tomato season was over, they pull me back in" - Victoria aka the Godmother

Monet said...

Such stunning varieties! I prefer my tomatoes pretty deeply flavored and tangy too, so we would probably have had similar favorites. I wish I could have attended...this festival sounds amazing!

Jasmine1485 said...

I was suckered in by that first tomato photo :) They look like they're about to burst with flavour. I don't actually like fresh tomatoes, but I love the smell and cooking with them. I like making pasta sauce or tomato chutney at home, so easy and yet a massive taste payoff!

Magic of Spice said...

What a great post...love tomatoes. The photos are great, and your descriptions are perfect :)

The Cilantropist said...

Beautiful beautiful pictures! I would love to do a tasting like this, the FMs by me are loaded with these beauties too but sadly no tasting seems to be arranged. Jealous! ;)

ravienomnoms said...

Look at all those gorgeous tomatoes! I could just eat them all up! YUM

Torviewtoronto said...

lovely pictures

http://torviewtoronto.blogspot.com

whatsfordinneracrossstatelines said...

Great market, you have even more than we do! I love zebra's too, they come in red too. Great explanation.

Jean said...

Awesome pictures. I can honestly say that I think my father has grown all of these varieties but I've never taken the time to evaluate the flavor differences among them. I agree with your preference to have a stronger, firmer tomato, too.

Love the green zebras-tried to grow them, too, but the deer took a liking to them. Nursery ran out of the plants so I couldn't replace. :-(

Have you ever tried a French heirloom cherry tomato called Jaune Flamme? They're orange and so easy to eat. I think I ate more right out of the garden than I cooked with them. So good!

Spicie Foodie said...

Wow look at all those amazing tomato varieties! I just realized my tomato experience has been a narrow one, we don't have all those varieties here. Great photos

Erin said...

Wow... yummy. Tomatoes are my favorite. Hands down. Great photos, great variety of tomatoes! Tomatoes brought me to your blog, but I can't wait to read more!

Erin @ Ekat's Kitchen

Angie's Recipes said...

Beautiful! I like that green one especially.

savy cook said...

loved the pics- great presentation :)

Kim said...

I am big time jealous. I love, love, LOVE tomatoes but sadly we lack variety here in Vegas. My fiance shudders at the thought of eating raw tomatoes but aside from the acidity I could probably eat them all day. Yum.

Awesome images and description. I love all the color and information about each one. Thanks for a great blog!

jen cheung said...

very cute tomato!! tomato of LOVEEE!!!

Have a fabulous week!!
jen @ www.passion4food.ca

Priscilla - She's Cookin' said...

I would have a hard time describing tomatoes - esp. doing justice to the stunning varieties that you have featured here. You did an excellent job, they all sound provocative. So far this year the one that I have loved the most was an Elbe tomato (yellow) that was sweet and meaty.

Reeni said...

What stunning photos! I wish I could try each - especially the chocolate tomatoes! Intriguing.

Barbara said...

This is such an informative post! I love the photos. I wish I could find all these varities....

fortheloveofyum said...

Thanks for all the information on all the varieties of tomatoes!

I love the green zebra, I find them stunning!

Lovely photos!

Elizabeth said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog a few weeks back (http://southernlivingsavedmylife.blogspot.com/). I've noticed that there's no shortage of unemployed laywer-types who have started blogging to fill the time, and food seems to be a popular choice.

Oh! I just made a risotto you should try a week or so ago.

Also, feel free to add me to your blogroll :)

mixbakestir.com said...

What a beautiful post. I am crazy for tomatoes and, as much as I love fall - and its on its way up here in the NE, I hate not being able to get a decent tomato. Thanks for these pictures, I will look at them all winter!

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