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. All 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.
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.
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:
Grilled 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
Returning to the Love Apple Farm
A 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!