It’s attack of the local tomatoes at Boulder County Farmers Markets

From heirloom to hybrids, celebrate Tomato Day in Longmont Saturday

Cartons of deep-red grape tomatoes line a market stand at Denver’s Union Station. (Ashton Ray Hansen / Courtesy photo)
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Market happenings: Bring the whole family to enjoy a tomato-themed day at the Longmont Saturday Market. On Tomato Day, visitors can taste and vote on different varieties of tomatoes, experience cooking demos, enjoy tomato-inspired dishes and take part in kids activities, like tomato games and face painting.

On Thursday, don’t miss the Lafayette Market’s last monthly chalk-off from 4-8 p.m. See the artists in action one final time before they vie for a $700 prize at the closing seasonal market at the end of September. Featured artists this month include Juliette Nelson, Katie Miller and Rachel Dugas, who will highlight “What Makes Lafayette Great” through their chalk art.

In season now: All of our favorite things are filling the markets — apples, arugula, basil, beef, beets, bison, broccoli, carrots, cheese, chicken, collard greens, cucumbers, eggs, eggplant, flowers, green beans, honey, kale, kohlrabi, lamb, lettuce, peppers, peaches, pork, nectarines, melons, micro-greens, mixed greens, mushrooms, onions, spicy greens, summer squash, sweet corn and tomatoes.

Lots of this, please: The summertime staple we wait all season for is finally here, the tomato. From on-the-vine and cherry tomatoes, to big ol’ heirlooms to traditional beefsteak tomatoes, the fruit is at its peak in Colorado, filling the market booths with hues of red, yellow, orange, green and purple.

The farmer says: Variety is key when it comes to tomatoes. There are so many different kinds to taste, try and to compare — in fact, around 3,000 types of tomatoes are currently in active cultivation, but more than 15,000 known varieties exist — often classified by shape or size, location or by use.

By shape, there are globe, cherry, grape and pear. By use, plum tomatoes are known best for processing into sauce or paste, while beefsteak tomatoes are best for slicing up and stacking in sandwiches.

A tomato can be classified as ether a hybrid, genetically engineered or a heirloom — the latter category growing ever-popular in the tomato world. Heirloom tomatoes are self-fertile, non-hybrid crops that have typically been true-bred for 40 years or more. The hybridized and genetically engineered tomatoes, on the other hand, are often bred for commercial intent — like for size/shape consistency, ripening habits, yield and pesticide resistance — rather than for flavor.

It’s easy to tell if a variety is an heirloom. Its shaping will not be uniform and the skin may have splits or extra growths, as well as gradient color. Feel free to talk to the local farmers when choosing a tomato. At the local markets, all varieties are picked field-ripe and are nutrient-dense tomatoes. Varieties at the markets include: Blush, Black Cherry, Cherokee Purple, beefsteak, Brandywine, Mortgage Lifter, Black Krim, Carbon, Golden Giant, Kellogg Breakfast, Green Giant, Green Cherokee, Sun Gold, Pineapple, Valencia, Bing, Legend and more.

Samples of tomatoes from Aspen Moon Farm, Brown’s Farm, Ollin Farms, Emerald Acres, Honeyacres, Pope Farms Produce, Miller Farms, Monroe Organic Farm and Rocky Mountain Fresh will be featured at the Tomato Day tasting table. Guests can even vote and note their favorites for future reference.

How to prepare: Wash, slice, eat. Or wash and pop a cherry tomato into your mouth. Whip up a simple summer salad with quartered tomatoes, sliced cucumber, a bit of oil and vinegar, salt, pepper and fresh herbs, like basil, parsley, cilantro, or oregano. Or drop the cucumber and roast or saute that same mix into a sauce.

Goes with: Tomatoes really pair well with everything, from garlic, fresh herbs (basil, parsley, cilantro, oregano), cucumbers and greens, to fresh bread, goat cheese, spinach, eggs, chicken, pork, peppers and onions.

How to store it: There is no need to refrigerate tomatoes, which dulls the flavor. Leave the fruit out on the counter until you are ready to eat it. Keep any leftover tomatoes in an air-tight container in the fridge.


Boulder Farmers Market

13th Street and Canyon Boulevard

4-8 p.m. Wednesdays through Oct. 2

8 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays through Nov. 23

Lafayette Farmers Market

400 Block of East Simpson Street

4-8 p.m. Thursdays through Sep. 26

Longmont Farmers Market

Boulder County Fairgrounds

8 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays through Nov. 23

Union Station Farmers Market

Denver’s Union Station

9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays through Oct. 26


Tomato Bisque

1 medium to large yellow or white onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

3 teaspoons butter, olive, or vegetable oil

8 large tomatoes, chopped

salt

1/2 cup of cream

Directions: Place onions, garlic, and oil in a large pot and cook over medium heat for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally until the onions are translucent.

Add the tomatoes and pinch of salt. Bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low-medium, and cook for 1 hour.

Add all ingredients to a blender. Leave the blender lid cracked, and cover the crack with a folded kitchen towel to allow steam to escape. Blend until smooth.

Add cream. Adjust salt to taste.

Tip: For a dairy-free version, replace the cream with coconut milk or pureed white beans mixed with water.

— Matt Collier, chef at Seeds Library Cafe, seedsboulder.com

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