Food Facts

Lately, I’ve been sampling the produce at my local farmers market and I’ve been increasingly interested in (and craving) big, juicy heirloom tomatoes. They’re going to be out of season soon, so I’ve been buying a few each week. They are perfect with salt, pepper a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and basil!

Below is some information on heirlooms, in case you were interested. They come in all kinds of shapes, colors and sizes.

An heirloom tomato (also called heritage tomato in the UK) is an heirloom plant, an open-pollinated (non-hybrid) cultivar of tomato. Heirloom tomatoes have become increasingly popular and more readily available in recent years.

The different kinds:
Big Rainbow – One of dozens of large fruited yellow tomatoes with red swirls, having a mild, sweet flavor. Hillbilly, below, is another. According to some sources, tomatoes of this color were never sold by American seed companies; their origin is not known.
Blaby Special – A red fruited cultivar grown in the village of Blaby in Leicestershire until just after World War II. It was the main tomato cultivar supplied through England during the war. The cultivar ceased to be cultivated when the Shoult’s Tomato Farm was closed after the war. The cultivar was brought back into cultivation in 2006 as a result of a campaign by Russell Sharp of Lancaster University. It may have resulted from either a mutation or cross-breed of an older cultivar known as Anwell.
Black Krim – A dark red to brown cultivar often cited in seed catalogs as being from the “island of Krim” in the Black Sea, better known as the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine (Crimea is known in Ukrainian as Krim).
Brandywine – The tomato listed as simply “Brandywine” is one of the tomato varieties responsible for the ascendance of the popularity of heirloom varieties due to its excellent flavor and somewhat clouded history. A large fruited pink (red flesh, clear skin) variety produced on vigorous potato leaf foliage plants, Brandywine was passed on from the Sudduth family to an Ohio tomato enthusiast named Ben Quisenberry. Many seed savers traded seeds with Ben, and Brandywine eventually became widely available. Though a variety named “Brandywine” was offered in the late 1800s by the Stokes and Johnson seed company, that appeared to be a red fruited variety with regular leaf foliage. More likely is that Brandywine is a descendant of two similar (if not identical) varieties offered in the 1880’s – Mikado (Henderson seed company) or Turner’s Hybrid (Burpee Seed Company). Though several other tomatoes (Red Brandywine, Yellow Brandywine, and Black Brandywine) carry the name of “Brandywine” in part, any true relation between them is pure conjecture. In fact, Yellow Brandywine most closely resembles an old Henderson variety only fleetingly available in the 1890’s named “Shah”. Black Brandywine is a recent introduction of the Tomato Growers Supply Company as a purple fruited result of a cross. Upon release, it was not yet stable, as both potato leaf and regular leaf seedlings appeared from the purchased seed.
Cherokee Purple – One of the very first known “black”, or deep dusky rose colored cultivars that are becoming so popular. Named in 1990 by Craig LeHoullier, who received seeds of an unnamed cultivar in the mail from J. D. Green of Tennessee. Mr. Green indicated that the “purple” tomato cultivar was given by the Cherokee Indians to his neighbor “100 years ago”. Related to Cherokee Purple are Cherokee Chocolate (which resulted from a clear to yellow skin color single plant mutation of Cherokee Purple in Craig’s garden in 1995) and Cherokee Green (which emerged from Cherokee Chocolate, also in Craig’s garden, in 1997, and appears to be a flesh color mutation). Both are equally fine flavored, high yielding varieties, but are not strictly heirlooms.
Green Zebra – Often called an heirloom, it is not. It is an open-pollinated cultivar bred from four heirloom varieties and released by Tom Wagner of Lancaster, Kansas in 1983.
Hillbilly – See Big Rainbow, above. It is known in regular leaf and potato leaf forms.
Jubilee – A heavy yielding, golden fruit. Released by Burpee Seed Co. in 1943.
Lillian’s Yellow Heirloom – This wonderful, unique variety was collected some years ago by Lillian Bruce of Tennessee. Lillian passed the seed on to Robert Richardson, after which it found its way into the Seed Savers Exchange yearbook and became widely traded, and is now commercially available from a number of seed companies. One of the few bright yellow fruited varieties, and the only one with potato leaf foliage, this is a delicious, full flavored tomato that is very meaty, with few seeds. It tends to be a late season variety.
Mortgage Lifter – One of the more famous heirlooms due to its fanciful history, described in great detail in the catalog of the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange company. The enormous pink tomatoes are sweet and tasty.
Traveler, syn. Arkansas Traveler – An open pollinated pink tomato in the 6 ounce range. Another cultivar commonly referred to as an heirloom, although by most definitions it is technically not. Released by the University of Arkansas in 1970.


The flesh may be red, pink, orange or gold; it may have seeds or be seedless. Sone are the size of a small canteloupe. If selecting a whole melon, pick one that is symmetrical with a dull sheen on the rind, and check underneath to make sure it is yellowish-a sign it ripened on the ground. A watermelon, if truly ripe, will respond by giving up a thin green shaving if scraped with a fingernail. A cut piece of watermelon should be fragrant through the plastic wrap, and the flesh should appear dense and firm.

To clean greens, separate leaves, discard any that are discolored, wilted or tough, and place in a large bowl or sink full of cold water. Swish around for 30 seconds or so, then lift them from the water so that the dirt and grit remain in the water. Repeat the process until the water is clear. Spinach, which is sandy, may take two or three rinses.

About Basil –

Not without reason called “the royal herb”, these versatile leaves have a gret affinity for tomatoes, fish and egg dishes, but they are good in almost all savory dishes. They darken quickly after cutting, and they should be added to hot foods at the end of cooking. Serve them as they do in Italy, in a bouquet of sprigs set in water in a small vase and used at the table for flavor food.

“It is a fact that families who sit down to eat together are healthier and happier than those who don’t.”

-Ethan Becker

“Since knives are used so frequently, it is important that they be close and safely at hand. Several solutions exist: knife blocks, wall-mounted magnetic holders and wooden drawer inserts, just to name a few. We do not recommend washing knives in the dishwasher. The repeated heating affects the blade, and soon the knive with neither take nor hold a sharp edge.”

We have chosen the wall-mounted magnetic strip as a way to hold our knives, mostly because it saves countertop space. Our knives, the Whustof Grand Prix II set, are amazing – I don’t know what I’d do without them! If you buy one or two good knives (chefs/santoku knife and a paring knife) you might spend $150, but if you learn how to sharpen them well, you’ll have them forever!

Foods containing good carbohydrates that yield their sugars gradually, which increases blood sugar more slowly and to a lesser extent, are fruits, vegetables, whole wheat bread, whole-grain pastas, and whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, oats, and bulgur. These foods deliver essential vitamins and minerals, fiber and a host of important phytonutrients , and they have only slow, steady effects on blood sugar.

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