Have you ever bitten into a tomato and it tasted like, well, nothing? No flavor at all. It looked like a tomato, but the taste left much to be desired.
Most of the tomatoes (and other plant foods for that matter) that we eat these days are not even remotely close to the varieties that our ancestors had. It has been said that you haven’t really tasted tomatoes, lettuce, corn, etc. unless you’ve had the heirloom varieties. Why is that?
What are heirloom (heritage) plants?
Heirlooms, also known as heritage plants, are vintage plant varieties which come in unusual shapes, sizes and colors. Heirloom plants are generally varieties that were introduced before 1951 when hybrid farming became commercialized. However, many varieties are 100′s of years old!
What is the difference between heirlooms and hybrids?
Heirlooms = open-pollinated vintage plant varieties that breed true-to-type (come back the same year after year). These varieties are preserved by passing down the seeds from generation to generation. Heirloom seeds, like other heirlooms (furniture, jewelry, photos, letters, etc.) are extremely valuable, precious and sentimental. I think our grandparents were trying to tell us something…
Hybrids = varieties of plants that have been specifically bred (by cross-pollinating two or more varieties of plants) to achieve certain qualities (i.e. uniform color, size, shape, resistant to disease, high yield, durability for shipping, etc.) and can’t continue to reproduce on their own.
Why is heirloom gardening so popular?
The fact that gardening is popular at all is good news. Heirloom plants are simply unique and beautiful, plus the flavors and textures are authentic and delicious! Heirloom tomatoes taste like, you guessed it, tomatoes! Heirloom gardening is also a way to preserve our culinary and agricultural heritage. I mean how awesome is it that we can eat the same varieties of plants that our ancestors ate in the 1800′s? (please excuse the gardening nerd talk)
Are heirloom varieties nutritionally superior to hybrids?
Maybe. Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin studied 43 crops from 1950-1999 and found that during that period of time, there were significant declines in six nutrients (protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin and ascorbic acid).
Eat your vegetables. If you can get heirloom varieties at farmers’ markets and roadside stands – by all means, do it! If you can’t, don’t sweat it. Remember, some veggie is better than no veggie.
Recipe last updated: July 2014
- Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or foil.
- Lightly brush the tops of each baguette slice with olive oil and place on the baking sheets. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until tops are a nice golden brown color.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the sliced tomatoes, beans, olive oil, vinegar, garlic, and salt (optional). Stir to combine ingredients & flavors.
- Remove baguette slices from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Once slices have cooled slightly, spread 1 tablespoon of ricotta cheese on each slice and then top with tomato mixture. Garnish with basil and serve immediately! Enjoy!