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Whole Gourmet Natural Cooking

Alison Anton's Natural Cooking Blog offers healthy recipes, inspirational food articles and culinary advice for the natural chef, and features dessert recipes from her upcoming cookbook, Desserts for Every Body.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Unmatchable Heirloom Taste

It's easy to think of Aunt Mable's broach that has been passed down through the generations as an heirloom... but an heirloom tomato?

An “heirloom” seed refers to an old variety of vegetable or fruit that predates the hybrids, which were starting to be bred and grown in the 1940’s. These unadulterated heirloom seeds have been passed along through families and seed companies for decades and are not in circulation as commercial varieties.

Heirlooms have endured through the generations because people cared enough about their outstanding flavors, unique character or their distinct growing habits to save the seeds from one season to the next. Unlike hybrids that are bred to grow anywhere, ripen uniformly, ship well, and keep longer, heirlooms have maintained their intrinsic personalities and richness in flavor.

Through hybridization, thousands of varieties of unique vegetables and fruits from all over the world have been lost to us. By purchasing heirloom produce, or growing our own and keeping the seeds, we can all participate in saving the many varieties of our traditional foods from extinction and preserving historical plants with special genetic traits.

Many food lovers agree that heirloom vegetables and fruits have an unmatchable richness, sweetness and juiciness, and give people a sense of history and cultural heritage with every bite... a “pedigree”, so to speak.

Look for heirlooms at the farmer’s market or the local organic grocery. They may not be perfectly round or perfectly colored, but I guarantee that they’re perfectly flavored!


Heirloom Tomato Israeli Salad
Serves 4

My favorite for this recipe is to get one of those baskets of mixed heirloom cherry tomatoes in hues of yellow, red and orange (even the green zebras look cool) that you find at the farmer's market. Slice them in half and toss them with the other ingredients and you have an exquisite presentation, not to mention a dynamite taste.

1 basket heirloom cherry tomatoes or 4 medium-sized heirloom tomatoes
1 cucumber
1/2 red onion
Juice of 1/2 lemon
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

Dice the tomatoes, cucumber and onion in a large bowl and toss with the lemon juice, olive oil, parsley, salt and pepper. Blend well and taste. Add more salt and/or lemon juice until the flavors pop out.

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