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The Edible Heirloom

Heirloom tomatoes can be perfectly imperfect and downright ugly, but they taste so good.

Typically, when one selects produce at the market, perfection is paramount in making choices. We look for perfectly unfurling heads of lettuce, unblemished apples, pristine peppers.  However, with my dear friend, the heirloom tomato, I find that the ones with character–creases, rough hewn stripes, multicolored hues and questionable structure–often guarantees you've selected the best of the lot.

There are times when my kids and I have a contest to see who can select the funniest looking one, or in words of my clever son, "the differently animated."

Never mind the technicality that tomatoes aren't truly animated unless you are at the La Tomatina Festival in Bunol, Spain, but he's got the right approach to picking a fine, if not fun, tomato.  In a word, heirloom tomatoes are often so ugly, only a mother could love them, and love them I do!

I love them chopped in salads. I love them when prepared as a spectacular base for bruschetta. I love them on the grill and topped with a nice slice of farm fresh mozzarella, a whole basil leaf and a drizzle of olive oil.  

But perhaps, I love them best when they are roasted. For me, an heirloom clearly trumps the taste value of your standard market variety tomato; that is, to my palette, they have a remarkable true, deep, meaty tomato taste. Roasting them truly enhances that flavor.

So be brave and pass by the waxy coated Roma, eschew the beef steak tom and treat yourself to a truly blissful tomato experience. Pick the ugly one instead.  Your taste buds will thank me.

Oven Roasted Heirloom Tomatoes


  • 4-6 wonderfully unprepossessing, multi-toned heirloom tomatoes (or however many you feel like preparing)
  • Fresh pressed garlic (have a head of garlic on hand)
  • fresh rosemary
  • course ground sea salt and fresh cracked pepper
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wash and slice the tomatoes, about 1/8" - 1/4" thick. Place on a cookie sheet or pyrex dish lightly sprayed with cooking oil. Place tomato disks in pan and using a garlic press smear enough garlic on the tomatoes to your liking. Sprinkle with course ground sea salt, a light touch of fresh cracked pepper and a scattering of fresh rosemary leaves. Drizzle with olive oil.

Roast in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the tomatoes look slightly caramelized.  They will look ugly, wrinkled and about 1/2 their former size. This is good.

This dish will not plate up pretty in the classical sense of the word (I, for one, find the multihued tomatoes a thing of beauty).  Scrap the tomatoes out of the pan and put into a bowl (it's a bit like a tapenade).  Serve with fresh baguette or other crusty bread. Open a bottle of red and enjoy!

Rick Petitfils May 22, 2011 at 12:47 AM
The mini heirlooms are delicious. I buy them all the time at Trader Joes. It is hard to grow them.


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