Every month, Melina Hammer, Food52's very own Hudson Valley correspondent, is serving up all the bounty that upstate New York has to offer.
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We have entered my favorite season: the season of gorging on tomatoes. I grow both hybrid and heirloom tomatoes at Catbird Cottage, and once the first fruits have ripened, after a gleeful harvest, there are BLT sandwiches and numerous batches of sauce and confit that follow. I clear the calendar to bottle my surplus, preserving the season so I can enjoy their exceptional flavor year-round.
Heirloom tomatoes have become quite popular in recent years. These tomatoes are open-pollinated, which makes them more genetically diverse and allows them to adapt to local growing conditions and changing climates. True to their name, these tomato seeds have been passed down through generations, enduring the test of time. They are known for walloping deep — or bright, depending on the cultivar — tomatoey-ness.
Hybrid tomatoes have their benefits, too, especially if you want to grow disease- or pest-resistant tomatoes. But their seeds cannot be saved and reused as easily, so if you want to grow tomatoes, choosing open-pollinated varieties conserves the genetic diversity in the garden and prevents the loss of unique varieties in the face of dwindling agricultural biodiversity.
Here are 10 tried-and-true types of tomatoes — plus two new recipes at the end.
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10 types of tomatoes to love
This plum tomato variety is long and densely meaty. Also known as the paste tomato, it is the perfect pick for making tomato paste or sauce. Most commercial plum tomatoes sold in the U.S. are a version of the Roma. Use the flavorful sauce for shakshuka, clams, or ragu.
This cherry-style tomato is the current darling of the tomato world. Like little jewels, Sungolds make a perfect sweet snack, adored by kids and adults alike. Here at Catbird, they grow abundantly late into the season — we eat just as many straight from the vine as we put toward confit or colorful panzanella.
3. Green Zebra
This green and yellow striped tomato is known for its bright acidity. Though green tomatoes are commonly thought of as unripe, the man who cultivated this variety, Tom Wagner, was fascinated by the idea of producing a green tomato that was meant to be just that. Add this tomato to a rainbow caprese with burrata or a crunchy cucumber, corn, and green bean salad.
This heirloom tomato is one of my all-time favorites. Large, heavy, and irregularly shaped, with a concentrated tomato flavor. When ripe, they have purplish skin, green-tinged shoulders, and deep crimson flesh. This tomato is great slow-roasted into jammy perfection — or thickly sliced, piled on toast, and sprinkled with flaky salt.
Brandywine is one of the largest cultivated tomato types. Belonging to the beefsteak family, it's also an heirloom, grown as far back as 1886. Its pink flesh delivers a meaty slice and is one of the most popular home garden cultivars. Sprinkle wedges with salt and pepper, then drag through mayo for a simple pleasure. Or roast them in a savory galette, anointed with good olive oil.
6. Mortgage Lifter
This tomato is legendary for its enormous size — it was bred in the 1930s to weigh up to 2 pounds! Not skimping on flavor either, the Mortgage Lifter is a great everyday tomato. Its mild, sweet flavor makes a great sauce.
Larger than cherry tomatoes but smaller than plum tomatoes, Camparis are commonly seen as the on-the-vine variety at grocery stores. Known for low acidity and sweet, juicy interiors, they are ideal cut into hearty wedges and added to salads. Or put toward that refreshing summer favorite, gazpacho.
As it ripens on the vine, this diminutive tomato resembles dangling earrings. They grow to only 1/2 inch across, are brilliantly red, and make a fantastic addition to salads, with torn herbs and burrata or feta. They're also a great pickling tomato due to their firmness and snackable size.
This ribbed, smallish tomato originally hails from Greece and, true to its origins, thrives in dry climates. Plants produce abundant, bright, and acidic fruit. It's delicious served raw in salads, or roasted and served with brothy beans.
This elongated, oval-shaped cherry tomato variety is orange-pink with reddish stripes when ripe. It's sweet and fruity, and best eaten raw. Adding a few of these is an easy way to make any plate of food beautiful.
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2 Shiny New Tomato Recipes