Ahh, the first, official day of Summer.  If you enjoyed our highlights of Spring salad ingredients the last couple of months, keep reading.  We’re going to continue highlighting glorious fruits and veggies you can enjoy with your Salad Girl Organic Dressing as we head into Summer.  We’ll start today with delightful and flavorful Heirloom Tomatoes.

Organic Heirloom Tomatoes at the Whole Foods Market in St. Paul, Minnesota.

About 25 years ago, some dedicated people started saving what they could of the remaining open-pollinated (without human intervention) seed varieties which have become known as “heirloom seeds.”  An heirloom variety is one that has been around more than fifty years and can reproduce from seed.  Among the many heirloom fruits and vegetables grown today are beets, carrots, corn, dried beans, lettuce, potatoes and tomatoes.  For some foodie gardeners, there is a certain charm associated with gathering and saving seeds from the gardens and gatherings of family and friends.  When you plant and harvest the same seeds of foods that you’ve enjoyed during a memorable meal, the fond memories continue year after year.

Aside from the charm and the nostalgia, heirloom tomatoes vary widely in size, shape, color, and taste.  Additionally, their appearance is quite different from common tomatoes.  Most have few seeds and are fragile with a thin skin which gives the tomato a higher sugar content and wonderful flavor.  Try out heirloom vegetables whenever you get a chance (check your neighborhood Farmer’s Market, http://www.localharvest.com).  If you’re interested in growing your own heirloom vegetables, check your local nurseries.  If you can’t find heirloom seeds locally, try www.heirloomseeds.com or www.seedsavers.org.  When you harvest your heirloom seeds, you can share the taste and the memory with other gardeners and friends!

Tomatoes don’t rank the highest (the “Dirty Dozen” list) or lowest (the “Clean 15″) for pesticide load according to the research of the Environmental Working Group, www.foodnews.org.  However, buying or growing your own organic, heirloom tomatoes is always the “green” way to go.

Purchase ripe tomatoes glossy, firm skin if you will be using them within in a few days.  If you will not be using the tomatoes for several days, it’s okay to select green to light pink tomatoes that are under ripe.  For tomatoes to ripen the best, store them at room temperature in paper bag.  Check on the tomatoes daily.  Once ripe, the tomatoes will retain their flavor and firmness for 2-3 days so plan accordingly to take advantage of the excellent taste and nutrients.

Tomatoes are a great source of vitamin C.  Produce loses nutrients and flavor with each passing day, so eat your tomatoes while they’re at their freshest best!  Heirloom tomatoes would taste amazing with your Lemony Herb Salad Girl Organic Dressing,  some local greens (kale, red and green leaf lettuces, romaine and Bibb lettuce), and a few other veggies of your choice.  Check out page 55 of Pam Powell’s recipe book Salad Days: Recipes for Delicious Organic Salads and Dressings for Every Season.  You’ll find a wonderful “Heirloom Tomato Salad” recipe.

Enjoy the fruits and veggies of Summer !
Article by Pam Powell and Sarah Baron Sullivan
Photo by Sarah Baron Sullivan