What's in Season – Tasty Tomatoes

Heirloom Sweet Tomato Jam - Sonoma County

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What's in Season – Tasty Tomatoes

I have one, count 'em one, tomato on my two plants set in raised beds in my Sebastopol garden. It's still green, and the size of a Ping-Pong ball.

Peaches are falling off my trees, radishes are growing like weeds, I've got more apples than I know what to do with, squash and beets threaten to take over my yard, and even my black walnuts, lemons and figs are bursting on the branches. But tomatoes? This year, I've gotten one, and it's not edible.

It's on odd thing, considering that all my Sonoma County friends are buried in tomatoes, proclaiming this year to be particularly vigorous for the usually plentiful fruits. BLTs are handed out like canapés at their garden parties, Bloody Marys brim with real fruit juice, and they, feeling sorry for me, laden me with sacks of their 'excess' orbs to take home.

Tomatoes are the poster fruit of summer, and if you don't grow your own or know someone who does, visit the farmers market. Load up on the myriad of pretty colors and flavors. They're wonderful any way imaginable, eaten raw with sea salt and excellent extra virgin olive oil, in gazpacho, or even juiced with a bit of simple syrup atop a snow cone.

Here's another recipe we love, from Barndiva Healdsburg Chef Ryan Fancher:


Heirloom Tomato & Compressed Watermelon Salad

Serves 4

1 medium watermelon
1 tsp. lemon verbena
1 large golden beet
1 large Detroit dark-red beet
6 heirloom tomatoes
2 Tbsp. sweet basil
4 Tbsp. Spanish sherry vinaigrette
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup purslane (optional)
2 Tbsp. crystallized ginger, diced
2 red radishes

Spanish Sherry Vinaigrette
1 cup grape seed oil
1/3 cup Spanish sherry vinegar
A pinch of salt, sugar and freshly ground pepper

The Watermelon – The night before or a few hours before serving, cut into large cubes and sprinkle with the chopped lemon verbena. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate.
The Beets – Cover with 2 cups water, 1 Tbsp. butter, 1 clove garlic and a sprig of thyme. Cover and cook at 350° for 3 hours. Cool and slice.
The Heirloom Tomatoes – Slice them thickly and mix them in with the chopped sweet basil. In a bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients for the vinaigrette. Bathe the tomatoes in 4 tablespoons of the vinaigrette for 30 minutes or more. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Assemble – Stack the tomatoes, largest one on the bottom. Arrange the watermelon. Dress the beets in the bathing vinaigrette, season with salt and pepper, and plate. Sprinkle ginger and thinly sliced radishes over the dish. Dress the purslane, and add it to the dish to finish.


And here's a great jam recipe from one of our local food bloggers

Lindy's Sweet Heirloom Tomato Jam

This jam would be great on hamburgers.  It's a bit sweeter than ketchup, but has a depth of flavor ketchup doesn't have. Start with vine ripened dark red tomatoes, like Brandywine, or Cherokee Black.  And the riper the better!  This is perfect for those almost over-ripe guys!   You should also taste your fruit before you decide on how much sugar to use, I started with 1/2 cup and it was perfect for what  I had, but if you have really sweet tomatoes,  you may want to start with a third of a cup, you can always add some in that final cooking phase.  


  • 1 1/2 pounds red heirloom tomatoes; the riper the better, peeled and halved or quartered (my favorite method to peel a tomato is to spear it with a fork in the stem side, then hold it over an open flame until the skin pops, repeat until all the tomatoes are done, then peel. If you have an electric stove, use the method of plunging the tomato, cut with an x on the side opposite the stem, for about 2 minutes)
  • 1 large shallot, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar (we can adjust this at the end, depending on how sweet your tomatoes are and how sweet you like your jam)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (again, we can adjust at the end)
  • 2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar (use some good stuff, please!)
  • 1 small sprig fresh rosemary
  • 2 small sprigs fresh thyme
  • 10 – 12 peppercorns

Step 1

Add the olive oil to a saucepan and heat over medium heat, add the shallots and sauté until softened. (You don't want them to brown).

Step 2

Once the shallots are soft, add the tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes or until they are just starting to soften; add the sugar, salt, balsamic, rosemary, thyme and peppercorns (put the rosemary, thyme and peppercorns in a cheese cloth for easy removal) Bring to a simmer, reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally until the jam has thickened. About 1 hour. (How long it takes will depend on how much water is in your tomatoes. In my case it was pretty much hands off with the cooking until an hour had passed and then it started getting pretty thick and needed to be stirred about every 5 minutes until it was an hour and a half in, then I strained it and cooked it 15 minutes longer.)

Step 3

If you want your jam smooth with no seeds and no onion pieces, when it's almost as thick as you desire, put it through a fine sieve, pushing it through the holes with a rubber spatula until the seeds remain in the sieve and all the pulp goes into the bowl, or use a food mill. Once strained, add back to the pan and cook to your desired constancy. If you don't care about seeds and such, skip this step and simply remove the herb packet.

Step 4

Let it cool on the stove, then put into a covered container and refrigerate (or serve immediately). It should hold for about 3 – 5 days in the refrigerator.

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Carey Sweet