In season heirloom tomatoes a sweet, diverse treat – news – gainesville sun – gainesville, fl

Bearing names reminiscent of another era — Cherokee Purple, German Stripe, Brandywine — heirloom tomatoes are ripening in gardens and farms across North Central Florida. Many hybrids fit our idea of a standard tomato — red and round, bred to be picked green and ripen during shipment. Heirlooms, defined as a tomato that has not been crossbred with another variety for more than 40 years, are more treasured for flavor than their value as a commodity. While varying colors and shapes defy the common notion of what a tomato should look like, they all share one trait — heirloom tomatoes are best ripened on the vine.

Choose firm, heavy tomatoes with smooth skin.

Heirlooms may not be the prettiest tomatoes on the table, but a little trimming is worth the taste difference. Tomatoes have a superior texture and flavor if they are not refrigerated. For best results, store them in one layer at room temperature — a shady windowsill is fine. Try not to buy more than you can consume in a week, since invariably they will all be ripe and ready at the same time.

If you can’t eat them all in salads and sandwiches, make a sauce from that batch of ripe-and-ready tomatoes. While it takes a little time to peel the tomatoes, a fresh sauce comes together quickly, especially when compared to a long-cooking Italian ragu. Perfect for spring and summer, marinara will be the furthest thing from your mind as you ladle fresh tomato sauce over pasta, polenta or gnocchi.

Roasting tomatoes brings out the flavor like no other cooking method. The oven’s heat cooks out the water as the sugars caramelize, leaving the tomato with a concentrated, deeper taste. Wonderful in sauces, soups and sandwiches, their distinctive taste shines when used as a container for a baked egg. Roasted Tomato Egg Cups provide a unique presentation on a breakfast, brunch or tapas table. The recipe is perfect for entertaining since the tomato shells may be roasted in advance, leaving just the eggs to bake in the oven right before serving.

The iconic tomato sandwich brings to mind long, lazy summers in the garden, biting into a ripe tomato, still warm from the sun, and enjoying the sweetness as the juice drips off your chin. The recipe is provided for those who may not have had that summer experience, but the details are left up to the sandwich maker. Myriad small decisions — type of bread, brand of mayonnaise, salt and pepper or no pepper — create The Perfect Tomato Sandwich.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Prepare an ice-water bath for tomatoes and place near stove. Cut a small X in the bottom of each tomato. Place tomatoes in boiling water and return to boil. After one minute, use a slotted spoon to move tomatoes into ice bath. Peel tomatoes. Finely dice tomatoes and set aside, retaining as much of the tomato juice as possible. Add oil to a large skillet and place over medium heat. Add unpeeled garlic clove and heat until a light golden brown. Remove from oil. Carefully add tomatoes with their juices to the hot oil (stand back, it will splatter) and cook about 10 minutes, until softened. Peel and chop garlic. Add to tomatoes. Taste and add salt if desired. Just before serving, tear basil leaves and stir into sauce.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. To prepare tomatoes, cut off stem end and scoop out flesh and seeds. Be careful not to cut into skin. Place prepared tomatoes into custard cups or large muffin tins. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and a pinch of dried herb — basil or thyme are perfect. Bake tomato cups until edges are browned and tomatoes are softened, about 30 minutes. Break each egg into a small dish or bowl and pour into baked tomato shell. Repeat until all tomatoes are filled. Bake 5 to 12 minutes, until egg is cooked as desired. Serve hot with an extra drizzle of oil, salt and pepper.

Slather one side of each slice of bread with mayonnaise. Nestle one layer of tomato slices into the mayonnaise on one slice. Cut (or bite) tomato slices to fit as necessary. Add salt and pepper as desired. Place second slice of bread, mayonnaise side down, onto sliced tomatoes. Using one hand with spread fingers, place hand flat on top of sandwich and push down until bread is slightly squashed and juices begin to leak out of the sides. Serve immediately.

Due to the ephemeral nature of a tomato sandwich, why bother dirtying a plate? It is best served on a paper towel. To eat, grasp sandwich with both hands while leaning over the kitchen sink. For best results, do not set sandwich down between bites. Be prepared for sliding tomatoes that may have to be eaten using your fingers. The paper towel makes sense now, doesn’t it?