Yes, Summer is in full swing and so are the many colorful fruits and vegetables that you will be able to find at your local farmers markets and grocery stores. And there is enough different types of produce for every palette, with many that can be eaten raw. So you don’t always have to turn on the stove. Peaches, Nectarines, Avocados, Tomatoes, and Corn are abound and the perfect produce for backyard barbecues as the vibrant tantalizing offerings make excellent desserts and side dishes. It is also the perfect time for canning tomatoes and peppers so that you can savor the taste of the Summer season during the coming Winter months. So, check out the list below for a quick guide to the top in-season fruits and vegetables for the month of July, while they last.
July Fruits and Vegetables
This Month’s Featured Produce: Heirloom Tomatoes!
The tomato is the edible, often red, fruit/berry of the plant Solanum lycopersicum, commonly known as a tomato plant. The plant belongs to the nightshade family, Solanaceae. The species originated in western South America.
Aztecs and other peoples in Mesoamerica used the fruit in their cooking. The exact date of domestication is unknown; by 500 BC, it was already being cultivated in southern Mexico and probably other areas.
The Nahuatl (Aztec language) word tomatl gave rise to the Spanish word “tomate”, from which the English word tomato derived. Its use as a cultivated food may have originated with the indigenous peoples of Mexico.The Spanish discovered the tomato from their contact with the Aztec peoples during the Spanish colonization of the Americas, then brought it to Europe, and, from there, to other parts of the European colonized world during the 16th century.
And then there are the Heirloom tomatoes which are also called heritage tomato in the UK, are open-pollinated (non-hybrid) heirloom cultivar of tomatoes. According to tomato experts, heirloom tomatoes can be classified into four categories: family heirlooms, commercial heirlooms, mystery heirlooms, and created heirlooms. They usually have a shorter shelf life and less disease resistance than hybrids bred to resist against specific diseases. They are grown for a variety of reasons, such as for food, historical interest and having access to wider varieties.
For the most past, heirloom tomatoes have been around for a hundred years or more . However, he definition of an heirloom tomato is vague, but unlike commercial hybrids, all are self-fertile varieties that have bred true for 40 years or more and have passed on the saved seeds from one generation to another, by people who wish to save seeds from year to year, as well as for their taste.
Heirloom tomatoes are absolutely beautiful and are always stunning when served. With so many different colors and subtle flavor differences, heirloom tomatoes are perfect for dishes that feature tomato flavor. Numerous varieties of heirloom tomato are widely grown in temperate climates across the world, with greenhouses allowing its production throughout the year.
While tomatoes are botanically berry-type fruits, they are considered culinary vegetables as an ingredient or side dish for savory meals. Because of their versatility, heirloom tomatoes can be consumed in diverse ways, including raw, as an ingredient in many dishes, sauces, salads, and drinks. Heirlooms are such a staple in global cuisine where they can be used as tomato sauce for pasta or pizza, as a base for salsa, or in a curry; there is nothing better than dunking a grilled cheese sandwich into a creamy bowl of tomato soup or slicing them and eating them fresh on a sandwich.
Photo Credit: Half Baked Harvest , 2016
Heirloom tomato cultivars can be found in a wide variety of colors, shapes, flavors and sizes. They can be brown, purple, green, pink, yellow, orange, striped, and of course, red. They come in different shapes and sizes as well: round, oval, ribbed, and squat. Each tomato will develop in its own way to become naturally unique! Some heirloom cultivars can be prone to cracking or lack of disease resistance. As with most garden plants, cultivars can be acclimated over several gardening seasons to thrive in a geographical location through careful selection and seed saving.
Some of the most famous examples include San Marzano, Brandywine, Green Zebra, Gardener’s Delight, Marglobe, Lollypop, Yellow Pear, Silvery Fir Tree, Hillbilly, Paul Robeson, Cherokee Purple, Mortgage Lifter, Neville Tomatos, Mr. Stripey, Costoluto Genovese, Pruden’s Purple, Black Krim, Amish Paste, Aunt Ruby’s German Green, Garden Peach, Hawaiian Pineapple, Big Rainbow, Chocolate Cherry, Red Currant, Matt’s Wild Cherry, and Three Sisters.
What Goes Well With Heirloom Tomatoes?
Tomatoes go well with almost anything! Of course, tomatoes are especially delicious when paired with Italian flavors like oregano, balsamic vinegar, capers, olive oil, garlic, bocconcini or fresh mozzarella cheese. Also enjoy with Parmesan cheese, basil, bacon, rice, mushrooms, pasta, onion, avocado, crusty breads, strawberries, chickpeas, eggs, fennel, parsley, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce.
Enjoy ripe tomatoes by eating them fresh in salads and sandwiches or kick it up a notch and try halving them and grilling them on the BBQ, or stuffing them with rice, cheese and herbs and roasting them!
Enjoy fresh tomatoes topped with salt and pepper along side your eggs and bacon in the morning.
Make your own fresh salsa to serve along tortillas or on baked potatoes.
Chop tomatoes and add fresh basil, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and red onion to make a perfect bruschetta topping for a baguette.
How To Select and Store Heirloom Tomatoes
Tomatoes that are brightly hued, plump and without bruises or blemishes are best. They should be firm, but not rock hard and have a nice, earthy tomato-y smell. They should be heavy for their size, as ripe tomatoes will have more water content.
Store them at room temperature in an open basket if they’re ready to eat for up to a week, but if you want them to ripen faster, place them in a paper bag with an apple or an onion. Avoid storing tomatoes in a plastic bag or in the fridge as the cold causes them to turn mealy and they lose their delicious tomato flavor!
How To Prepare Tomatoes
Heirloom tomatoes are extremely versatile since they can be eaten fresh, in sauces, soup, salad, or even stir-fry. Wash tomatoes in cold water and remove any stickers from the grocery store.
To prepare tomato slices for sandwiches, slice them horizontally with a very sharp knife. Dull knives may squish tomatoes instead of cleanly slicing through the skin.
For soups or sauces, you may want to remove the tomato skin by first scoring the bottom of the tomato with an “X”, then blanching in boiling water quickly for about 30 seconds. Remove and place immediately in an ice bath. Once blanched, the tomato skins loosen and are easily peeled off; now they’re ready for use in sauces or soup!
For salad (or even stir fry), slice the tomatoes in half vertically and cut the stem out by slicing a V around the hard part of the stem. Continue to slice in wedges, perfect for eating on their own, in salad, or tossing in the last couple minutes of cooking a stir-fry.
Showcase different heirloom tomato color, size, and flavor in different applications. Fresh is great to show off those beautiful striped tomatoes, but heirloom tomato sauces can showcase different shades and colors of the heirloom tomatoes so well.
Heirloom Tomatoes Tips
Balance the natural acidity of tomato in recipes with either a pinch of salt or sugar or even a bit of baking soda, especially in soup. If you’re making tomato soup, it’s always a fun chemical reaction to share with the kids: let them sprinkle in baking soda and stir it in to see it bubble and foam!
Be sure to watch for bruises or holes in your tomatoes as they will decay quickly. Avoid these ones at the grocery store.
If you have an abundance of tomatoes in the summer, preserve them by canning. Check out this site for safe canning techniques to make sure your preserved tomatoes are safe and delicious after the season.
Tomatoes carry a lot of juice, which can cause a soggy sandwich – especially if you don’t eat it right away. To prevent this, bring tomatoes in a separate container and put them on your sandwich right before eating. For salads, add them at the end to prevent them from diluting the dressing.
You can never go wrong with a classic like blueberry muffins. Perfect for on-the-go breakfasts and late-afternoon snacks, keeping a stash on hand will satisfy all your hunger cravings.
Cambridge Dictionaries Online (2015). “English definition of ‘tomato’ “. Cambridge University Press. 2015. Date Accessed June 5 2018. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/tomato?a=british
Lockhart, James (2001). Nahuatl as Written: Lessons in Older Written Nahuatl, with Copious Examples and Texts. Stanford, CA, US: Stanford University Press.
Produce Made Simple: Heirloom Tomatoes. (2018) The Ontario Produce Marketing Association. Date Accessed June 24, 2018. https://producemadesimple.ca/heirloom-tomatoes/
Smith, A. F. (1994). The Tomato in America: Early History, Culture, and Cookery. Columbia SC, US: University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 1-57003-000-6.
Solanaceae Source (2011). “Phylogeny“. Date Accessed May 15, 2018.
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