September 6, 2008

Heirloom Tomatoes: Taste the Freshness

Although the farmers’ market season is winding down you can still get out to your local farm stand and markets and take part in one of the very best parts local food – heirloom tomatoes!

My family has grown heirlooms in our family garden since I was a child, as do I in my own garden. Heirlooms (or heritage tomatoes) are non-hybrid tomatoes. The definition of the use of the word heirloom to describe plants is highly debated, according to Wikipedia. I consider a true heirloom a cultivar that has been nurtured, selected, and handed down from one family member to another for many generations.

There are SO many varieties to choose from when it comes to heirloom tomatoes…endless possibilities. My favorites are Cherokee Purple and Green Zebra.

If you have never had the opportunity to taste the freshness of heirloom tomatoes, I highly suggest you visit your local market before the end of the season and give it a try.

This year at the Missouri State Fair visitors were able to taste 9 varieties of heirloom tomatoes at the Missouri State Fair Farmers’ Market I put together in the Ag Building. Read about the market events and the heirlooms on my Farmers’ Market Blog or check out other photos from the fair market.

Here are some good readings if you are interested in heirloom tomatoes as well. Or maybe you want to buy some heirloom seeds for your garden next season….take a look at Baker Creek Seeds (where I purchase a lot of my garden seed) or Morgan County Seed (both Missouri companies).

Suggested Heirloom Readings:
Smith & Hawken: 100 Heirloom Tomatoes for the American Garden (book)
The Heirloom Tomato Cookbook (book)
Why Grow Heirloom Tomatoes
How to plant heirloom tomatoes

Now for a heirloom tomato recipe that I hope you all enjoy!

Creamy Polenta-Stuffed Heirloom Tomatoes
1 Tbs. butter
1 Tbs. diced shallot
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
3 cups lower-salt chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream1 cup polenta (such as Bob's Red Mill brand)
1/2 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme
1/2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 cup plus
2 Tbs. freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 large Roma-style heirloom tomatoes
2 Tbs. chopped parsley

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the shallot and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add the cream and then whisk in the polenta. Reduce the heat to a simmer, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Add the thyme and rosemary and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the polenta is tender, creamy, and thick, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in 1/4 cup of the cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 400° F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Halve the tomatoes lengthwise and hollow them out. Cut a very thin slice off the bottom of each tomato half so the filled tomato can lie flat without rolling. Arrange the tomatoes on the baking sheet and season them lightly with salt. Fill each tomato half with some of the polenta, mounding just slightly (depending on the size of your tomatoes, you may or may not use all the polenta). Sprinkle the remaining 2 Tbs. of cheese and the parsley over each. Bake until the tomatoes are soft, about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.

1 comment:

Harry and Eddie said...

Thank you for this great simple recipe. I love polenta. I love roasted tomatoes. So this is perfect. I'll be making this very soon.