05 March, 2011

A Whisper of Summer

The snowbank at the foot of my driveway is still five feet high, and there's still a couple of feet of snowpack remaining in the yard. The temperature got down to 10 degrees last night, and I'm still pouring pellets into the stove to keep the house warm.  But thanks to some awesome heirloom tomatoes sliced for BLTs, we can pretend it's summer for a little while.

It's hard not to be drawn to the heirloom tomato display at Stop & Shop when I walk through the produce department.  The GOOD tomatoes (as opposed to all the flavorless pink billiard balls in the standard produce section) just call out my name whenever I go by. Finding little stickers on the fruit identifying them as "UglyRipe" tomatoes piqued my interest and I thought I'd find out a little more about them.

UglyRipe tomatoes are an heirloom hybrid grown in Florida. Unlike many "winter tomatoes" sent to New England markets, UglyRipes are as flavorful as a backyard-grown summer tomato.  Because they were developed from heirloom tomato strains, they also have the classic ridges and "wrinkles" of old-fashioned backyard varieties as well, and this characteristic has historically pissed off the Florida Tomato Committee, a state regulatory board that for years prevented UglyRipes from being shipped out of state because they didn't fit the standards for Florida tomatoes (i.e. they aren't perfectly round, smooth, and indistinguishable from the tomatoes around it.)  The Florida Tomato Committee's rules are probably to blame for all those cellophane-wrapped unripe balls of nastiness which used to pass for tomatoes in northern markets when I was a kid.

Anyway, UglyRipe growers finally were able to get the courts to overturn the shipping ban in 2007.  For those of us tired of Big Agriculture breeding the flavor out of fruits and vegetables in favor of uniform appearance and "shippability," that was good news.  UglyRipes are as excellent a tomato as you can find in the dead of winter, and are one of the few acceptable tomatoes available to us before we can start picking fresh field-grown tomatoes out of our own gardens in July.

Slice one of these babies and awesomeness ensues.  You don't even need to dirty a frying pan for the bacon if you use some of the Hormel ready-to-eat stuff (which I still contend is the best of the pre-cooked bacons out there.)


SantaSweets, Inc. website - home of the UglyRipe tomato.


Andrew said...

Dude, this post really made me hungry....

Anonymous said...

Hubby brought home ugly ripe last summer and we loved them! I hear you on the pale tomatoes that are out right now... they are so depressing. Even put in the window for a few days, the flavor still isn't there.