Don’t look now, but we are almost mid-way through our annual Tomato season. As has been the case most of the last few years, the first half of the season was a pretty wild ride for us. In the past, July was always the hottest month here and thus the busiest for tomatoes. But our summer has made an unmistakable shift as the global climate has warmed, and June is now consistently just as hot or hotter than July.
After 7 straight weeks of going full tilt, our tomato fields are taking a bit of a breather right now. Especially our heirloom varieties.
A few years back, we added paste or Roma tomatoes to our long list of varieties at the request of some of our customers. We were not surprised that they grew well for us — after all, Yolo County produces an enormous amount of canning tomatoes every year. We were, however, surprised at the demand for them.
After all, Romas have none of the luscious velvety texture of a perfectly ripe heirloom or Early Girl. And very few of the complex flavors. Their dry, meaty texture will not add much to a salad or a sandwich. They may as well be completely different vegetables.
But for all their beauty and flavor when eaten raw, most heirloom tomatoes do not lend themselves to cooking — although certain varieties are exceptions. Their gorgeous hues often end up turning a muddy brown when exposed to high heat for very long, especially if you combine different varieties together. And their complex flavor profiles can end up being bitter or terribly acidic when concentrated by cooking. I made a batch of sauce last year at the end of the season that was inedible. Finally, their high water content means it can take hours for them to cook down into sauce.
Paste tomatoes. on the other hand, are designed to be cooked. They have a low water content and more solids than the other tomatoes we grow; dramatically lower than most heirloom varieties. Throw them in a pot and they cook into a thick sauce rather than a soupy one. Toss them on a pizza and they keep their shape and texture rather than melting down and making the crust mushy.
We don’t generally include Romas in your boxes as part of your weekly portion of tomatoes. But this week we are sending along a separate bag of them. And we are also making them available on the Web Store. Feel free to let us know if you would like to see them more often, or not at all.