I am infatuated with heirloom tomatoes. At the end of summer, when they make their debut at farmers markets in all their miraculous glory, it’s move over beefsteak, you are a bore. The variety of colors, shapes, flavors and sizes heirlooms come in is overwhelming and at times magical; blue tomatoes anyone?
Steph Gaylor of Invincible Summer Farms and Salt of the Earth Seed Company is the tomato whisperer, a walking encyclopedia when it comes to heirloom tomatoes and seed saving. I met Steph at a seed saving seminar she gave at the Hallockville Museum Farm and shortly thereafter a tasting of her pride and joy: 30 or so diverse tomatoes on stage for everyone to savor. As we tasted the heirlooms, Steph proudly and nervously watched as we tasted each tomato. The variety was staggering and the taste was sensational — brava!
My encore was a private tour of her farm, which grows 350 varieties and other nightshades like peppers, eggplants and potatoes. Scattered about was kale, sweet potatoes, okra and a variety of winter squash. All are grown for consumers and seed saving.
Steph points to a native tomato called the Shinnecock Indian currant. This is the smallest tomato I have ever seen, as sweet as a grape, and a zillion times more flavorful than your mainstream Big Boy. Wafting through the air was fennel pollen. The taste of one bud had enough licorice flavor to be categorized as breath freshener. Thirty-six varieties of winter squash and melons were dispersed like land mines. Moreover, kale that Steph named “tough mother” was scattered by birds that picked off an overwintered heap of kale seeds that sustained itself through the polar vortex. Now that is a seed I want to get my hands on.
As I walked between the rows of tomatoes, I thought an end of summer gazpacho would be delightful. Steph sent me home with tomatoes on one condition: that I make her a batch of gazpacho. If you are interested in getting a box of Invincible Summer Farms heirloom tomatoes, now is the time! They are offering Wholesale Saturdays — 25-pound for $50 — for the first three Saturdays in September, 10 a.m to 2 p.m. Be sure to save your seeds!
Visit outeastfoodie for the gazpacho recipe.