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…and the people who grow them. Now that Massachusetts’ farmers’ markets are once again in full swing we welcome the return of award-winning heirloom tomatoes grown by Carl and Marie Hills of Kimball Fruit Farm, in Pepperell, MA. A third-generation family farm, Kimball’s offers more than 60 varieties of heirlooms seven days a week at a dozen Metro-Boston locations, as well as at their own farm stand on the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border.

Kimball Fruit Farm Carl Hills

               Carl Hills with heirloom tomatoes at the Brookline Farmers Market

Why buy tomatoes grown and sold by local farmers?

American chef-writer Deborah Madison notes in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone that “good tomatoes require conditions opposite to commercial needs — hand-picked, vine-ripened fruits grown from seeds that predict flavor rather than shipping capabilities….” In The Theory and Practice of Good Cooking, James Beard offered this pithy summation: “We find in our [super]markets the small, round, generally unripe ‘cannon-ball’ tomatoes, sold in plastic containers, which for my money are not worth buying….”

Need yet another reason?

They have such evocative names. Big Beef, Radiator Charlie, Moneymaker, and Mr. Stripey are not mobsters in a graphic novel or thoroughbred horses, they’re tomatoes!

Mortgage Liver heirloom tomato

Heirloom tomatoes have colorful names; these Mortgage Lifters are from Kimball Fruit Farm

What exactly is an heirloom and how can you save your own seeds?  

A basic primer is offered at Seed Savers Exchange, a nonprofit organization whose mission is “to save North America’s diverse, but endangered, garden heritage for future generations….” Seed Savers–and similar organizations–do this by building networks of people committed to collecting, conserving, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants, while also raising awareness of the value of genetic and cultural diversity. To learn how to save your own seeds–and more–visit the Saving Heirlooms page at the Seed Savers Exchange website.

A tri-color stack (recipe)

“One of many things we like to do with gorgeous heirlooms is to stack them. For example: We might place a yellow slice atop a red slice with a green slice on top–adding between each either a layer of burrata or mozzarella cheese and then topping it off with a vinaigrette.” So replied Jules’ Owner-Chef Anita Baglaneas, when we asked for a quick and easy recipe for a hot summer night.

Or, we may make a Greek-style heirloom-tomato salad–one with chopped olives and peppers and feta between the multi-colored layers, and then top this off with crumbles of feta, a drizzle of vinaigrette, and one of Jules’ feta-philo purses.”

Both approaches sound great, we said.

“These are just a couple of ways Jules capitalizes on summer’s bounty!” Anita exclaimed.

Photo Credits: Liz Muir