When you grow heirloom vegetable varieties, you realize that asking what a tomato tastes like is like asking what the temperament of a dog is. For the dog, so much is dependent on the breed. For the tomato, so much is dependent on the variety.
This variety of taste (texture and color) is true of so many edible heirlooms. This is one of the most rewarding things about gardening with them. You get to grow the varieties most to your liking or experimenting with.
For instance, I’m growing two specific lettuce varieties and one mixture of many kinds of leaf lettuces in my garden this year. One of my favorite lettuces to grow — and one that’s already peaked through the soil — is the Amish Deer Tongue variety. My Seed Savers Exchange catalog describes the heirloom’s taste as pleasant and sharp. Couple that with the thickness of the leaves, and I find this variety excellent for sandwiches. I’m also growing a new variety this year, Forellenschluss lettuce. I usually grow leaf lettuces, but this year I’m giving Romaine lettuce a try, which is a type of head lettuce that is mild and crisp. Seed Savers notes that it is great as a salad type that will hold its own when mixed with nuts and fruits.
I’m growing four heirloom vegetable varieties of peppers this year. First up is the Buran variety. From Poland, which I’m guessing has a similar growing season, this sweet pepper matures at about 4 inches long. Also currently growing in my basement right now are Orange Bell Peppers. The plant is a heavy producer of blocky 4-inch sweet fruits. Lastly, I am growing one hot pepper, the Bulgarian Carrot variety. I’ve purchased this heirloom specifically because it’s reportedly quite yummy when roasted. Lastly, I chose the Sweet Chocolate Pepper variety solely because of its color. I hope it tastes good, but adding a different color to my raised beds is really enough for me.
While I am also growing many varieties of other veggies, people go gaga over heirloom tomatoes. I’m tending to five types — Green Zebra, Igleheart Yellow Cherry, Cherokee Purple, Black Trim, and Amish Paste. I’m not a huge fan of raw tomatoes, but as some may recall from a tomato-tasting contest I accidentally fell upon at Seed Saver Exchange’s Heritage Farm, I was able to tolerate Green Zebras. I’m pretty sure I would gobble up Igleheart’s as a snack in a salad or all by itself. The other varieties, I won’t lie, are more for my wife as well as for making sauces. That thing about them being for Rebecca, I get great pleasure watching her devour a meal that’s little more than a bowl of raw tomatoes with feta cheese.
So what does an heirloom tomato taste like. Probably nothing like the type you find in your grocery store.