There’s an opening line in the movie Food Inc. where Michael Pollan talks about the supermarket tomato: grown in Chile, picked green and ripened to a saturated red glow with gas, these can be either far too firm or just plain tasteless. It’s not a tomato, he says, it’s the idea of a tomato. How very René Magritte of him!
Fortunately, this has been a great season for local tomatoes, and your local farmers have some exceptional varieties to choose from. Lest we get in trouble with our farmers-market-frequenting readers, we should note that tomatoes have been available for several weeks now, but after last week’s haul, they seem to be peaking. Carroll Gardens and Greenpoint farmers market manager Chelsea Whittaker has a few helpful tips when picking the right tomato for the occasion:
“Beautiful tomatoes are starting to come in! More and more different kinds of tomatoes are in the market these days and I’d encourage Brooklynites to try them all to see which ones they like best. There are lots of traditional beefsteak tomatoes in the market as well as their yellow counterpart. However, the yellow variety is less acidic and usually a bit sweeter, so they’re perfect for eaters who have a difficult time digesting very acidic foods.
There are also many cherry and heirloom tomatoes. I love using the cherry tomatoes (particularly the sweet sungolds) in salads, but I’m also fond of sauteing them with garlic and olive oil until they just begin to burst and putting them over pasta. While the definition of “heirloom” is debated, an “heirloom variety” generally refers to a variety of plant (in this case, the tomato) which has not been scientifically altered for at least 50 years (no hybrids or genetic modifications) and is open-pollinated. Many are nurtured, saved, and handed down for many generations. Each heirloom tomato variety has its own particular taste, so try a bunch to find your favorite!”
While we are particularly fond of the produce from Fishkill Farms (at Borough Hall Greenmarket on Saturday and Carroll Gardens Greenmarket on Sunday – wow wow wow are their tomatoes good!), every farmers market is likely to have some great selections. Trust us when we say these are worth the trip for their own sake. We picked up a bundle of tomatoes on Saturday, and had to get more on Sunday–yeah, they’re that good. While you’re at the market, be sure to pick up other seasonal treats like corn and peaches as well as locally-made cheeses, sausages, bread, and even “donut peaches” if you’re at Borough Hall on Saturday!