Van Chaplin; Styling Mindi Shapiro Levine
A simple get-together can become a mini-vacation for the mind and spirit. It is a good break from your daily routine. If you factor a favorite food into the occasion, things get even better.
That’s what Cindy and George Martin, owners of The Tasteful Garden in Chulafinnee, Alabama, discovered when they hosted a tomato-tasting party with friends Rod and Lori Palmer (Owl’s Hollow Farm, Gadsden, Alabama) and Will and Laurie Moore (Moore Farms, Woodland, Alabama). They sipped wine, sampled their homegrown tomatoes, and compared notes on favorite heirloom selections.
Tomatoes always spark lively conversation. “It’s like people picking a dog,” Cindy says. “They seem to choose a tomato that reflects their personality.”
What does an heirloom tomato have that the new hybrids lack? “They offer more of everything,” Cindy explains. “If a tomato is sweet, an heirloom is incredibly sweet. If a tomato is acidic, an heirloom selection is more so.”
In the taste comparison, the men agree that ‘Cherokee Purple’ is number one. “This tomato has a rich, complex flavor,” Will says.
“If I can get someone to taste a ‘Cherokee Purple,’ they’re going to say ‘That’s the best tomato I’ve ever had,’ ” George claims.
Rod adds, “Sliced with a little salt, it doesn’t get any better.”
Each of the ladies, on the other hand, picked her own favorite. Cindy’s choice is ‘Rose de Berne.’ “It’s usually my first tomato of the year. I like a nice round tomato flavor,” Cindy says.
Laurie Moore loves the yellow and green selections. “I enjoy ‘Aunt Ruby’s German Green’ and ‘Green Zebra,’ ” she states.
Lori Palmer prefers another old favorite. “When you eat a ‘Brandywine’ off the vine, you realize it’s a different kind of tomato,” she says.
The Facts of Flavor
George Martin demystifies the tomato’s flavor traits.
Ripen Them Right
Will Moore suggests the best way to harvest your tomatoes for optimum flavor.
Secrets to Success
Here are Rod Palmer’s thoughts on growing the perfect heirloom tomato.
"Taste of Summer" is from the August 2008 issue of Southern Living.