The world of heirloom tomatoes is quite fascinating.
We had been so accustomed to encountering only standard round, red tomatoes in the grocery store for decades that many people had no idea tomatoes could encompass so many color combinations, unique shapes and flavor profiles.
Over the past 15 years or so, heirloom tomatoes began to really gain steam, thanks to our local farmers putting them on display for our community to enjoy. These days, they’re the most preferred category of tomatoes, and this summer fruit is becoming more readily available every week.
An heirloom tomato is an open-pollinated, non-hybrid heirloom cultivator. Here are more details about when the tomato is called an heirloom, according to the experts: “When the plants of an open-pollinated variety self-pollinate, or are pollinated by another representative of the same variety, the resulting seeds will produce plants roughly identical to their parents.”
There are dozens of varieties of heirloom tomatoes you can expect to encounter at the farmers’ markets throughout the season. They include local favorites such as pineapple, brandywine, green zebra and black krim. All possess notable different attributes with regards to shape, size, color and flavor.
The first variety of heirloom tomato to arrive each year is typically the Cherokee Purple tomato, with Tutti Frutti Farm of Lompoc leading the pack with the early availability. This deep colored variety is stunning on the plate, with swirls of purple, deep red, pink,and green throughout.
A wonderful balance of sweet and tangy notes, with an almost underlying smokiness, this variety really brings on the flavor.
This week I prepared a Cherokee Purple Breakfast Sandwich. The thick round of heirloom tomato takes center stage, along with the poached or fried egg, mozzarella cheese and fresh basil.
If desired, you can add a little ham or Canadian bacon. For the bread, I typically use English muffin, although a nice piece of sourdough bread works quite nicely.
Cherokee Purple Breakfast Sandwich
2 English muffins
2 rounds of fresh mozzarella cheese, cut about 1/4 inch thick.
2 rounds of Cherokee purple heirloom tomato, cut about 1/4 inch thick
2 eggs, poached or fried
3 large basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons.
Optional: aged balsamic vinegar
Optional: salt and pepper
Cut your English muffins in half and toast. If desired, spread with a little butter or avocado. You can also add ham if you like.
Add mozzarella cheese, followed by tomato, egg and basil leaves. I then drizzle a little aged balsamic vinegar to the top. (The vinegar is optional.)
Season top with salt and pepper if desired and top with the other half of the bread.
Yield: Makes 2 sandwiches.