Tomato Taste Test
Heirloom VS Heirloom

Heirloom tomatoes taste better than hybrid tomatoes. Blah, blah, blah.

Heirloom tomatoes are more spectacular than hybrid tomatoes. Blahdee, blahdee, bloo.

Heirloom tomatoes are superior in every way and could probably cure cancer if given a bunsen burner and a cracked test tube.

BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAHDEE, BLOO, BLAH. BLEH.

I get it. We get it. Anyone who buys, eats, consumes, looks at, even thinks about any tomato other than an heirloom tomato is a vegetable (fruit) idiot who deserves to die of some sort of acute, boring tomato sickness plague.

The truth is, any homegrown tomato is going to taste pretty good, and definitely better than a tomato that’s bought in a grocery store. In January.

Those tomatoes are picked well before they’re ripe and then they’re left to ripen by their own littles selves while travelling along the open highway in a transport truck, smokin’ cigarettes and listening to Kenny Rogers.

Problem is, tomatoes taste better when they ripen on the vine. A lot of people will tell you they can’t tell the difference, but I did a little experiment this year with my super sweet cherry tomatoes.

You see, sugars are built up in tomatoes by a multitude of things. The genetics of the tomato has a lot to do with it, the minerals in your soil and big sciencey words like Volatiles. Also, photosynthesis. The tomato leaves gather invisible magic stuff from the sun which converts to sugar in the tomato. All of these things combined are what create a sweet tomato.

This year I accidentally broke a few stems on my cherry tomato plant that had tomatoes ripening on it. So I left the branches on the plant and allowed them to wither away and die. The tomatoes on the dead branches still ripened but they didn’t get any of the benefits of the minerals from the soil or the magic invisible stuff through photosynthesis because the actual stem the tomatoes were on was dead.

Then I compared the taste of the tomatoes that ripened on the dead vine to a tomato ripened on a healthy vine. The result was astonishing and because of how sweet the tomatoes were supposed to be, DRAMATIC. The tomatoes on the dead tomato vine were not only less sweet, they were actually sour. The tomatoes that ripened on the healthy stem were as sweet as candy.

It would be a lot harder to taste the dramatic difference on a regular, less sweet tomato, but it does prove there is a definitely a decrease in the quality of a countertop/transport truck ripened tomato and a healthy vine ripened tomato.

So when tomatoes are picked early either to save them from frost, or to pack them onto a truck to ship them, they lose the benefits of the ripening with the addition of minerals and photosynthesis. And it makes a HUGE difference in taste.

Really that’s more important than whether a tomato is heirloom or not.

But heirlooms really do taste better. I think. Who knows.

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I sure think they look better.

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Having billions of heirloom tomatoes, at least 10 friends and relatives and a need to know which was the BEST tomato I was growing, I organized a little taste test.

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I had 6 different people try 6 different tomatoes and rate them from 1-10.

It was a blind taste test. Why?

 

Because these tomatoes are beautiful.

 

tomatoes-labelled

 

 

And the beauty of your food completely changes how it tastes.  The look of it will even change what you perceive the mouth feel to be. (what it feels like in your mouth.  Duh.)

Full discloser:  The Costoluto Genovese tomato below is not a real tomato slice.  I could have omitted that information and had you go on thinking it was real (because it looks so real) but it isn’t.  It’s a drawing of the shape of a Costoluto Genovese because I accidentally ate it.  In two slices of toasted homemade bread.

 

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So I diced all the tomatoes up into bowls and started spoon feeding my friends and relatives.  Which was all kinds of weird.

 

Everyone ate one bite and graded them on flavour, texture, and whatever else they could think of.

 

 

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Everyone had a different reason for liking one over another. Some people liked a sweeter tomato, others did not. Some people liked a really strong tomato flavour, others did not.

This wasn’t what you’d call a scientific journal type research project. To be honest with you it was a clever way to get rid of a bunch of tomatoes without actually throwing them in the garbage.

I have a lot of tomatoes and some sort of freakish need not to waste a single one. More on that in a later post.

After the tasting was complete I added up the scores and the one with the highest score would be crowned the winner.

taste-test-chart

Green Zebra. Which happens to be my favourite tomato. It is ripe when green, and tastes like the normal red tomato you’re used to. It just has a different colour. It has a natural saltiness to it and a certain “zing”. Plus it looks great (which made no difference since this was a blind taste test) on a plate. People are always taken aback by the look of a ripe green tomato and will say they think it tastes a little green when they try it the first time. But it doesn’t. Their eyes are just stupid. Feeding them inconclusive information.

Blah, blah, blah.

72 Comments

  1. Karen says:

    Ooooo. I think I’d be with your aunt on that one, lol. If you like acidic then you’d love the “Mystery Keeper”. It’s very acidic and it’ll slowly ripen so you can have tomatoes up to January without any special treatment of them. ~ karen!

  2. Tad says:

    Aren’t tomato people funny about “their” tomatoes? I don’t see Cherokee Purple (80 days) mentioned here. I got one at a produce stand three years ago because of it’s interesting appearance, and had to try growing them the next two years. Pathetic yard for gardening — shallow topsoil and sun only from about 11 a.m. on in high summer. I “garden” in 5 gallon buckets. The only thing I have going in my favor gardening-wise is my manure source — our sweet little pet rabbit. The first year I got about 5 tomatoes — which was a thrill, considering the location. Also, it was a bad season for everybody’s tomatoes. The second year I did the same and got LOTS of tomatoes. If you don’t want to try growing them, at least try to find one locally grown and taste it. If you grow them, pick them when they get soft enough to have just a little “give” when you gently squeeze them. They don’t get red — just dark green and sort of a reddish brown. I grew up in an area known for tomatoes, and my uncle next door farmed them. We got the good, vine ripened ones that were too small, oddly shaped, etc. for market. (Yes, you’re right. Store tomatoes are picked before they are ripe, mostly because ripe tomatoes are too soft to ship or sit in a box/basket well for very long.) Cherokee Purple tastes like my childhood memory of summer — a perfect tomato.

    • Jane says:

      I totally agree. Cherokee Purples are the best-tasting tomatoes. I’ve pretty much stopped trying to grow others, except the cherry Sun Golds. I know these are ubiquitous, but to me they taste the best.

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