Gluten Free Adventures Part 1: Heirloom Tomatoes from the Santa Cruz Mountains



Growing your own Organic Heirloom Tomatoes

I told you all in a previous post in March that we went on a foodie adventure in the Santa Cruz Mountains and had a wonderful time. On that visit we stopped at the local heirloom tomato farm, Love Apple Farm, which sells heirloom tomato plants in the spring and grows and sells an amazing variety of tomatoes in the summer to local clients and a foofie restaurant in Los Gatos, Manresa Restaurant. In March I bought four heirloom tomato plants from the amazing tomato lady at LAF, and signed myself up for her newsletter with tomato growing tips and farm news. widejoe.jpgAll summer I’ve been feeding and watering my plants, and I’ve had the fun of watching them grow from about 5 inches or so to six or seven feet tall. I’ve shown you a few photos of tomatoes from my balcony garden- notably, the Costoluto Florentino pumpkin shaped tomato that I nicknamed “Tall Joe” because the plant kept growing and growing, and a Japanese Oxheart with pepper or heart shaped tomatoes. I’m also waiting for Tall Joe’s friend, a Purple Calabash, AKA “Wide Joe” (right) who is determined to grow over and out of the balcony entirely, to come into season. When their days of glory have passed and the balcony is empty again *sniff*, I guess I’ll have to start daydreaming of the season next year, when I can try my favorites again (Tall Joe Jr?), and maybe try growing a few new varieties.

How to Grow Heirloom Tomatoes on Your Balcony

Photos One, Two, and Seven: Costoluto Florentino tomatoes growing on Tall Joe
Photo Three: Three plants from L to R (Wide Joe- Purple Calabash, Tall Joe- Costoluto Florentino , Japanese Oxheart)
Photo Four: Same Plants, with tallest plants (Tall Joe and Japanese Oxheart) most visible
Photo Five: DH reading, surrounded by our tomato plants
Photo Six: The Plague Victim, (a Siletz) struck by an infestation of aphids and thus in exile on the other side of the balcony. Good producer but he will not be invited to join us next year.

talljoetom.jpg talljoetoms.jpg tomstogether.jpg tombalcony.jpg dhtomatoes.jpg stumpyjoe1.jpg talljoetoms2.jpg

But once you grow beautiful, unique heirloom tomatoes, what do you do with them? Here are some recipes that I have made using my tomatoes:
mytomatoes.jpgtomatoesasst.jpgGrilled Zucchini with Tomato and Olive Salad
Pico De Gallo Recipe
Basil Olive Oil Bruschetta Recipe
Ancho Enchilada Sauce Recipe and
Grilled Portobello Sandwich with Sundried Tomato Feta Spread Recipe
Ratatoille Recipe

Returning to the Love Apple Farm
tomatojam.jpgtomatorow.jpgA few weeks ago I received an email from the Love Apple Farm informing me that they had opened up the tomato stand for the season. I immediately wanted to return and check out some of the varieties that I hadn’t grown this year. Love Apple Farm is a cozy, homey place with herb gardens, small sheds, and green things growing all around, and is an excellent antidote to the cookie cutter strip mall atmosphere that dominates much of Silicon Valley. But the true stars of the show are the amazing tomatoes- quirky, unexpected creatures of all shapes and stripes. When we showed up at the doorstep this Saturday afternoon, they were offering tastings of their red or black tomato jam- I was thrilled by the idea, but had to rely on DH’s report to decide which one to buy. (They were served on wheat crackers.) Then I spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to decide which tomatoes to try- I ended up getting six, all of different varieties- Lemony, Homer Fikes, Orange Russian 17, Hippy Zebra, Mr. Brown, and a Cherokee Green… I never knew tomatoes could have so much personality and be so much fun! The Love Apple Farm has completely opened my eyes to the joys of unique, heirloom vegetables, with all their quirks. I don’t know that I will ever be able to look at the bland red globes in the supermarket the same way again. Just look at the gorgeous Orange Russian 117 below- isn’t it the prettiest tomato you’ve ever seen? It was delicious simply prepared with salt- I can only imagine how divine it would be with a little olive oil and some julienned basil…


As a side note- when I brought my tomato jam home, I didn’t quite know what to do with it- until I was reheating some of my buckwheat crepes and decided to make a traditional galette with goats cheese and thinly sliced apples. On a whim I added a dollop of the tomato jam- and was completely blissed out on my snack. This morning I took some Glutino GF crackers and spread them with a little goat cheese and tomato jam- it was delicious. If I have time, I’m so going to try to make my own tomato jam- it’s amazing stuff!


I found Love Apple Farm by doing a Google search for “Santa Cruz,” “winery” and “farms” – and now it’s become a favorite destination. You’ll never know what local farms and gluten free treats may be lurking in your area… until you do a search for them! Enjoy, and I’d love to hear about what you find!

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8 Responses to “Gluten Free Adventures Part 1: Heirloom Tomatoes from the Santa Cruz Mountains”

  1. Wow .. your tomatoes put ours to shame! Thanks for the growing advice – we purchased ours as seeds from Rush Industries (not too sure I recommend them). Heirloom tomatoes are atop our favorites list so we may heed your advice next growing season. If California were any closer, Love Apple Farm would have our business:) Always good to support local farmers and glad to see you’re support. Thanks again,


  2. So what does the tomato jam taste like? Sweet? Tart? I have been making hot pepper jelly for the last two years and it is fabulous with hard cheese or over soft cheeses. I have about 30 tomato plants in the backyard,yet with the drought we had, super hot weather and the wood chips that got mixed in while planting, I have had pretty low yields. However, my heirlooms are doing ok. I have green zebra, purple cherokee, mr stripey and a yellow variety. I will keep my eyes out for the Costoluto Florentino for next year. I will be canning tomatoes for the winter on Sunday. Beer equipment works really well for that. By the way,how did your beer turn out? My BF just found three Belgian varieties in our local store last night. A Saison, double and trippel. Will blog on them soon.

  3. Hi Cindalou! I think the Love Apple Farms site has some recommendations for heirloom seeds, if you’re looking for a new company for next year. I only wish we could visit more often- it’s a bit of a trek for us.

    Hi Ginger- the jam is quite sweet, as it’s just tomatoes and sugar. We were both surprised there was no pectin, but I guess the sugar ends up thickening it. It’s soooo good with goat cheese. Mmmm. I’ll have to see if there are any pics of your tomatoes on your site- they sound lovely. I’m becoming an heirloom tomato fanatic- dunno how I’ll cope with winter. It’s so lovely to just go on my balcony and pick what I want for dinner. Update on beer coming soon- DH was sick and then we were on vacation, so our experiment was put on hold. I hope it turned out!!!


  4. Patricia Messer Says:

    Do you have the measurements of the tomato jam. I grow heirloom tomatoes as well and would like to make some for our summer party in the garden. There must be a little salt as well to bring out the flavor?

  5. Hi Patricia,
    I don’t have the exact measurements, but I was told that the tomato jam just contained sugar and tomatoes. I don’t think it needs salt- after all, regular jam doesn’t have salt and tomato is another fruit, when it comes down to it. But, of course you can add a little salt if you like. This is a very sweet jam, though…

    Here’s a recipe that I think must be similar to the one they used at the farm:,1823,137176-233204,00.html

    Hope this helps!

  6. Darn, that link didn’t work for me re: the tomato jam recipe…care to repost? Thanks

  7. Jillisa,
    I am not sure why the recipe link didn’t work for you… but it does work… I just right clicked on it and it opened in a new window. Maybe the site was temporarily down?


  8. [...] When I heard that our theme was scones, I started daydreaming about certain royal weddings and the English Channel and Lady Grey Tea. Be skeptical if you like, but ever since I was a little girl reading Jane Eyre I’ve had a thing for that part of the world. Sign me up for Bath, Somerset in June, and regency gowns, and castles with the changing of the guard and most of all, sign me up for an afternoon low tea with cups of black tea and gluten-free scones and gobs of clotted cream and jam. Please? I know the latter afternoon tea would cost an arm, leg, and probably an ear and nose too, but I really would love to have the experience at least once in my life. Since that trip to London is not, unfortunately, in the cards at the moment, it seems to me the least I can do is leap into this ratio event and put my own version of a British spin on it. I decided to make a classic British scone, spiced with nutmeg and sweetened with darling baby currants. I made it rice-free, and used Authentic Foods White Corn Flourbecause corn flour is popular in gluten-free baked products in the UK. And further, I decided to make it dairy-free, not only because I know many of my readers are dairy-free but because, well, we were out of butter and all I had was Earth Balance Margarine and palm oil shortening. I love the flavor of the former- and I love the allergy-friendly personality of the latter. Sometimes palm oil can be bland, so I used up all the margarine I had for taste, and filled in my ratio with palm shortening. I based the scone on the ratio found in Wayne Gissler’s Professional Baking. To my astonishment, the recipe turned out quite well the first time out (and a good thing, too, because of course I ended up making my scone at the last minute). They were tender, faintly sweet and delicious fresh out of the oven, and I could really see how they would lend themselves to gobs of creamy topping, jam and a nice traditional tea. The next day we had an all-day gardening class scheduled at Love Apple Farm in Santa Cruz, so we took several in our lunchbox and gobbled them up with an appetite sharpened by the beautiful surroundings of an organic farm and the relief of shade after standing in the heat of the sun. The class and the scones were both quite good. You may find the dough to be a bit messier than you like. With more work, I might find a recipe that is easier to handle. But, I found the finished result to be quite delightful, and something I’ll be making again. Next time I just might go all out and make a dairy-free (or dairy) clotted cream recipe and serve it on sweet antique china plates and make a pot of tea in my great-grandmother’s tea pot to accompany it. I’ll just have to watch out for the Cat Burglar Baby Yum and her sly, scone-stealing (and probably teacup-breaking) moves. I couldn’t resist taking my scones out on our patio for a morning treat. I even got out a lovely jar of Jeanie’s Organic Plum Cherry Jam for accompaniment, recently purchased at the Love Apple Farm Retail Location. Jeanie sells homemade organic tomato jams and even Indian chutneys that are really something special, as I found out a few years ago on a heirloom tomato hunt. [...]

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