Ripe for the Picking: A Guide to Farmers Market Tomatoes
We’re celebrating tomatoes at our 17th Annual Tomato Festival on Saturday, August 24th at Trout Lake & Sunday, August 25th at Kitsilano. Come sample unique tomato varieties, see our heirloom tomato display & enter to win one of two canning prize giveaways from Wells Can Company. See our Tomato Festival event page for more event details.
- Tomatoes are the most popular fruit grown worldwide
- There are at least 10,000 varieties of tomatoes
- Don’t refrigerate your tomatoes, cold temperatures can make the flesh pulpy & mute flavour
- Olive oil improves the absorption of a tomato’s nutrients
Why Farmers Market Tomatoes Are So Darn Good.
It’s no secret that fresh, locally grown tomatoes are by far superior to supermarket tomatoes. Supermarket tomatoes are picked green, travel long distances and are stored for 2-3 weeks before they end up on supermarket shelves. Farmers market tomatoes, on the other hand, are picked at peak ripeness, so their sugars have the chance to fully develop in the field. At the farmers market you’ll also find rare tomato varieties that have interesting, nuanced tomato flavours that supermarket tomatoes just can’t beat.
At the Vancouver Farmers Markets you can find over 100 varieties of tomatoes. Here’s a quick list of some tomato varieties you can find at the farmers market.
These varieties are often passed down through several generations to preserve characteristics of their original plants. Heirloom tomatoes are incredibly biodiverse and come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colours and textures.
Best for slicing and eating on their own or in a simple salad to fully appreciate their unique taste
Our Favourite Heirloom Tomato: Green Zebra
These dark green and yellow striped tomatoes are a market favourite. In fact, at last year’s annual Tomato Festival, Klippers Organics won best tasting tomato with their Green Zebra tomato. Their flesh is lime-emerald in colour that has a tasty lemon-lime flavour. A great tomato for brightening up salads and other tomato dishes.
The smallest tomatoes. This variety ranges in shape from grape to pear to cherry and colours from orange to red.
Best for salads, pastas & snacking
Our Favourite Cherry Tomato: Sungold
Sungold tomatoes are small, bright orange cherry tomatoes that pack a flavourful punch. They are super sweet and tangy and best for nibbling on while you’re shopping at the market.
Egg-shaped and meaty, these tend to be less juicy than other tomato varieties. They are the preferred choice for canning, sauces, salsas and paste.
Best for sauces, canning and drying
Our Favourite Roma or Plum Tomato: San Marzano
These bright red oblong fruits have a sweet flavour, dense pulp, low acidity and low seed count making San Marzanos perfect for canning and sauces.
Beefsteak tomatoes are the large, juicy and meaty tomatoes that are excellent for slicing and eating fresh from the harvest. They come in a variety of colours, red, orange, pink, dark blue, yellow, green, or black.
Best for slicing and adding to sandwiches or burgers
Our Favourite Beefsteak or Field Tomato: Brandywine
These big, meaty tomatoes have a mild, sweet taste. Fruits ripen to a pinkish red and average 12 ounces but can grow up to 2 pounds! Brandywine tomatoes also grow in red, yellow and black varieties but the original is by far the most favoured.
Did You Know?
Tomatoes were once thought to be poisonous by the French and northern Europeans because they are a member of the deadly nightshade family. In fact, many members of the upper class were poisoned by tomatoes, giving them the name “poisonous apple.” At that time before the 1800s, the upper class used pewter plates which have a high lead content, the acid from the tomatoes would cause the lead to leech into their food.
Easy Ways to Store Your Tomatoes Through Winter
This is by far the quickest and easiest method to store your tomatoes over the winter. Tomatoes can be frozen either with or without the skin. Simply place tomatoes in the freezer on a cookie tray until frozen, then transfer tomatoes into a freezer bag. Frozen tomatoes can be used for sauces, soups and stews.
Oven-dried tomatoes are a delicious way to preserve your tomatoes so they can be added to salads, sauces and dressings. Preheat oven to the lowest setting possible (anywhere between 170-200 degrees F), wash and halve tomatoes and gently squeeze out excess liquid & seeds, place tomatoes on a cookie tray lined with parchment paper and bake until tomatoes are dehydrated and leathery, approximately 6-12 hours.
Save your seeds over the winter and grow your own favourite variety of tomato you discover at the farmers market. Simply wait until the fruit is very ripe, almost too ripe, and soft. Slice the fruit in half, scoop out the seeds, and smear them across a paper towel. Fold the towel, label it with the variety of tomato, and allow it to dry for a week or two in a well-ventilated spot.