HEIRLOOM TOMATOES have bloodlines and stories often twining back generations. The Cherokee Purple, for example, with it’s dusty red/purple skin and dense, juicy interior, is said to have been the tomato of choice raised by the Cherokee Indians of Tennesee and shared with their white neighbors. The Japanese Black Trifele, that looks more like a mahogany-colored pear than a tomato, hails from the southern Ukraine where it became popular early in the 19th century, It seems that after the Crimean War soldiers carried the seeds home, and as a result, these wonderful-tasting tomatoes spread throughout Western Russia. And Aunt Ruby's German Green - the perfect choice for Fried Green Tomatoes -come from Greeneville Tennesee where Ruby Arnold's immigrant grandfather brought the seeds from his native Germany.
Now, these amazing tomatoes are not for the faint of heart. They are big, bulbous, deformed, strange-colored and heavy. Put one in your hand and you’re heftng a good pound of dense, luscious tomato. And at four to five dollars a pound they can put a serious dent in your Market budget.
And when you see boxes and boxes of them displayed at David and Joanna Bauman's REAL FOODS market table, I can guarantee that you will come to a screeching hault, linger over each variety, and pick the perfect tomato or two to wend its way into your kitchen and into your heart.
The Bauman's have been coming to market for 3 years now. They grow 30 varieties of Heirloom Tomatoes - starting them under a green house but in the ground - and estimate that they pack up and sell about a thousand pounds of these beauties each week. That's a lot of tomato happiness!
Now, while the classic Green Tomato recipe calls for corn meal and bacon grease, we kinda like Paula Dean's rendition cause we love buttermilk slathered on just about anything. Enjoy!
• Salt to taste
• 2 cups vegetable or peanut oil, for deep-frying
• 1 cup buttermilk
• 2 cups self-rising flour
• Freshly ground black pepper
Slice the tomatoes 1/4-inch thick. Lay them out in a shallow baking pan and sprinkle with salt. Place the tomato slices in a colander and allow time for salt to pull the water out of the tomatoes, approximately 30 minutes. In a skillet, heat the oil for deep-frying over medium-high heat. Dip the tomatoes into buttermilk, then dredge them into flour with a dash of pepper. Deep-fry until golden brown. Keep warm.