What to Do With Ugly Heirloom Tomatoes


Carol Ann Sayle

You tomato growers know how the first tomatoes off your plants, at the beginning of the sacred season of the "love apple," can often show up "ugly."

Heirloom tomatoes, especially, take that adjective to new heights. Our Hispanic farmhands fondly refer to the first Cherokee Purples they pick from the field as higados ("livers"). A less-than-appetizing nickname, but it's far better than my definitely unappealing designations of some of them as "intestines," or "giant worms."

Often, the tomatoes are just too convoluted and scarred, and generally not apple-shaped, to be appealing to our farmstand customers. It would be hard for them to cut decently round slices to accent a hamburger, so we don't frustrate them by even laying them out on the tables. But what to do with them?

At the first of the season, late May down here in Central Texas, there aren't enough of the "defects" to trim up and freeze. Later, when there are a lot more creatively-shaped tomatoes, or even perfectly-round ones that split their skins after a surprise Texas thunderstorm pumps them full of too much water too quickly, I cut off the challenged parts and freeze the rest in freezer bags. Once all the fresh tomatoes are gone, usually by the end of summer, customers can make sauces and soups during fall and winter. Two neat things: in the frozen state, you can select just a couple of tomatoes for a sauté or dressing and leave the rest in the freezer. Also, once the tomatoes are thawed out, you can pinch the skins right off, if they are not acceptable to your intestines. (During cooking those skins roll up stiffly, like toothpicks, and that is not a commendable ingredient in most soups!)

So, before the freezing marathon kicks in, I get in a couple rounds of homemade Love Apple/Tomato Soup. Made with the heirlooms, it is indeed addictive stuff! So sensuous, so satisfying. So simple to make.

I don't adhere to specific recipe amounts, but generally I fill a large soup pot with about a gallon of tomato parts carved off the best areas of the higados, intestines, and worms. To that, I add one or two sliced onions, and lots of crushed garlic. I sprinkle the ingredients with sea salt, pepper, and the dried herbs I have on hand: a locally-made Provence-type blend called "Herbs de Tejas," which my ex-husband and his wife sell at our market.

Then I pour in a pint or so of homemade chicken stock, and cook it all over medium heat, stirring now and then, until the higados are well-relaxed. At that point I insert the submersible hand blender and blend carefully, so as not to splatter myself with boiling higados juice. When it is well-blended, I stir in a cup or so of raw goat milk.

The soup is ready to eat hot, but it is also very refreshing served cold, especially on a torridly hot day. For added interest, I garnish each serving with minced herbs, slivered basil, and/or feta or parmesan cheese. By the way, the broth, milk, and cheese are totally optional if you are vegan, but they do impart great richness, even love, to the soup.

Recent posts by Carol Ann Sayle:
In Texas, Breaking the Crop Rotation Rules
Root Ahoy! The Joy of Finding a New Vegetable
When Growers Trade Seeds for Spreadsheets