Don’t be fooled by their cracks, crevices, and contorted shape.
Usually, when we hear the world “ugly,” we’re reminded of something hideous and eye-sore inducing, like the Wicked Witch of the West. And we thought the same—that is, until we set our sights on Hepworth Farms Organic “Ugly” Heirloom Tomatoes Farm Share Box this summer. Sure, these heirlooms might not be good lookin’, but they’re still juicy, delicious, and excellent for cooking!
Get the recipe for roasted ugly heirloom tomatoes on toast here.
We were so fascinated by the caliber, color, cracks, and “birthmark” blemishes on these tomatoes, which were bursting with a sweet and satiating flavor like we’d never tasted, so we reached out to Hepworth’s very own Gail Hepworth to get the inside scoop on these vegetable gems.
Gail’s farm, which has been in production since the settler days, operated one of the very first roadside stands on route 9W in Long Island, then known as the Pony Express. “We’ve had quite a few firsts in our family, including one of the first CA (controlled atmosphere) rooms for apples,” she told us. “It wasn’t until the 1980s, when my sister, Amy, found that growing apples organically wasn’t environmentally the right choice for our farm, because of the toll it took on the environment, so we decided vegetables would be more suited for how we wanted to farm.” That’s when the Hepworths started moving the land into vegetable production. And they’ve attracted a cult of foodie followers ever since—mainly because of their astonishing 128 varieties of tomatoes.
The Hepworth sisters were surprised by the success of their ugly heirloom tomatoes, and the fact that they’ve become a standout seller. “Heirloom tomatoes are not new—they’re an old-fashioned variety that people used to eat in bulk back in the 20s, 30s, and 40s, when there was a tolerance for their cracking, imperfect-type of look. They used to be a novelty,” Gail says. “But because heirlooms don’t tend to be good shippers, due to their soft flesh, we started to see a shift in the 50s, 60s, and 70s in people’s desire to purchase a nice, shiny, round, red tomato—typically beefsteak.” But the quest for farmers to produce a good-tasting tomato, that also happens to be a good shipper, is a challenge. “Now that heirlooms have once again become a commodity and everyone knows about them, the consumer wants a perfect heirloom. But heirlooms don’t grow perfect, smooth-skinned, and shiny. They grow however they want to grow! They weren’t bred to be a tomato shipper because they produce characteristics of cracking, just like jalapeños.”
That’s where the idea of an “Ugly Heirloom Box” came into fruition. “The majority of our heirlooms are imperfect looking, but are perfectly good tasting, so it’s been amazing that FreshDirect is promoting them and preparing the consumer for the perfectly imperfect crop that is the heirloom tomato in its natural state.”
Tempted to give the ugly heirloom a try? Snatch one of our farm share boxes before summer’s over. And remember: While they come in all shapes and sizes, and may not have been blessed with the greatest of looks, they’re still bursting with sweetness and a saucy personality, and grown by farmers who care just as much about their crop as you do about how it tastes.
Shop Hepworth tomatoes here.
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