Summer Love: The 'Black' Tomato

Ingredient Spotlight

You can keep your Brandywines and Marvel Stripes, delicious though they are. When it comes to summer heirloom tomatoes, I head straight for one thing: The Black Krim, photographed above in my back yard with no photo enhancing. Just the pure ruby-fleshed deliciousness, shining on through!

Here in the Bay Area, several farmers must feel the same way I do because the Black Krim (and its kin the Black Zebra, Black Cherokee, etc) are pretty easy to find in many famers' markets come tomato season. And no wonder, for these fruits are consistently perfect in all the ways I want my tomato to be perfect. With a juicy yet firm texture and nicely balanced in sweet and tart, this tomato is rich and robustly flavored. A winner all around.

Appearance always comes last in my assessment of a food's worthiness, but in this case, the astonishingly deep red color of a 'black' tomato is also a plus. It's true that we eat with our eyes as well as our mouths. Still, that deep color, which sometimes can look brownish with occasional streaks of green, has kept this tomato from commercial production. (More conventional farmers feel its odd appearance will keep it from selling well in the supermarkets.) Whatever. I can't remember the last time I bought a tomato in a supermarket anyway!

Most black tomatoes originated from the Crimean peninsula in the Ukraine where hot summers encourage the development of sugars and darker, mahogany-hued pigments. Also delicious is the Black Cherry (exactly as it sounds, a deep ruby-fleshed cherry tomato) and Cherokee Purple. Here's an excellent listing of varieties of black tomatoes (with pictures!) from the wonderful people at Heirloom Tomato Plants.

Related: Tastes Like Summer: The Perfect Tomato Sandwich

(Image: Dana Velden)

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Dana Velden has just finished writing her first book: Finding Yourself in the Kitchen: Meditations and Recipes from a Mindful Cook which is based on her Weekend Meditation posts from The Kitchn. (Rodale Press, Fall, 2015) She lives in Oakland, CA.