Attack of the Heirloom Tomatoes

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Inevitably, someone would scream, “Run for the hills!!” during a tense, nail-biting moment in those kitschy 1950s alien horror films. At Restoration Farm in Old Bethpage, “Run to the fields!!” is actually the refrain these days. The heirloom invasion is under way and members could not be happier.

The farm landscape resembles an eye-popping Disney animated feature, accented with bold brushstrokes of Cherokee purple, brandywine red, Cuban yellow, black cherry and green zebra.

Yet, there are rumors of an emerging ailment referred to in some circles as “Heirloom Traumatic Stress Disorder.” CSA members are reporting strained muscles as they attempt to haul the overwhelming weight of the heirloom harvest to their cars. Kitchen counters are overrun with heirlooms practically squeezing out the coffee maker, because, if you put an heirloom in the refrigerator, it dies a tasteless and watery death.

One CSA member stood at the entrance to the distribution tent and publicly fretted, “What am I going to do with all these tomatoes?”—sounding a bit frayed like the Peter Finch character in the movie Network.

Indeed, creative culinary concepts abound for responding to the invasion: ratatouille can put a dent in both an excess of heirlooms and the bumper zucchini crop, but there are also heirloom tomato tarts, tomato garnishes, oven roasted tomatoes, tomato Napoleons, tomato pasta salads, days and days of tomato caprese salad, eating heirloom cherry tomatoes like penny candy, fried green tomatoes and even sneaking tomatoes into recipes where they don’t normally belong. Anyone for balsamic roasted tomato basil ice cream? Parents will stop at nothing to get their kids to consume the lycopene-rich invaders.

When all options have been exhausted, there’s always the old standby: Tomato Surprise, the classic comfort food recipe that features a tomato smothered in mayonnaise and savory melted cheese or a soft cooked egg tucked into an unsuspecting tomato cavity.

An invasion of heirlooms—it’s a nice problem to have.

T.W. Barritt blogs at