The OG Heirloom Circus

17th Aug 2020 @ 15:55 by Sue

Harvest Moon’s owner and winemaker, Randy Pitts, has a deep love for the land and farming that is evident in the way he carefully tends his wine grapes. He just as carefully tends the bountiful garden at his Willowside Learning Farm. Randy wants to share with you one of the fruits of his labor—his heirloom tomatoes.

Striped Germans, Hawaiian Pineapples, Stupice, Cherokee Purples and Green Zebras—these are just a few of the varieties that make up the circus that is the Heirloom Tomato world. There are more than 3,000 varieties of heirloom or heritage tomatoes in active cultivation worldwide and more than 15,000 known varieties. Heirlooms are an open-pollinated, non-hybrid type of tomato. They usually have a shorter shelf life and are less disease resistant than hybrids.

Regular “hybrid” tomatoes you find at the grocery store are just that—a hybrid of the original heirloom varietals. Hybrids were created because they are more disease resistant, creating greater tonnage on crops for commercial growers and a longer shelf life for a longer selling time in the stores. While that sounds great for the farmer’s bottom line, it does nothing to tantalize the consumer’s palate because the tomatoes are often quite flavorless. My personal guess is that this is the single biggest reason that people dislike tomatoes. If you’ve never had a tomato fresh off the vine, let alone an heirloom variety, you are missing one of the greatest joys your taste buds could experience….and now is the time!

Heirlooms are the real deal. They are the OG (Original Gangsta) of the tomato world and their diverse colors and flavors make them highly sought after for professional and home chefs and food aficionados alike. You’ll find them grown by smaller farmers, who can provide the special care they need to stave off diseases. Let’s face it—we all know that a little more loving touch helps ALL things grow in abundance and fruitfulness!

At Harvest Moon Winery and our neighboring Willowside Learning Farm, Randy’s own little farm circus, Randy grows a variety of the ‘looms featuring the works of art that are the Striped Germans, Hawaiian Pineapples, Stupice, Cherokee Purples and Green Zebras. Under Randy’s careful care, these rare variety heirloom tomatoes are happy, abundant and so deeeelicious!

The Striped German Tomato is a beautiful large variety with brilliant and bright orange-marbled stripes. They are flat, medium to large with a ribbed shoulder, in shades of yellow and red. The interior flesh is marbled and shines like a work of art served sliced on a plate! The Striped German rewards proper care with months of sweet, juicy and quirkily squat fruit.

The Hawaiian Pineapple variety has a combination of orange and yellow stripes both inside and out. The yield tends to be quite small-- at the farm – producing only three or four tomatoes every year, but they are very large. “…as big as your face,” Randy notes of these beefsteak type fruits with juicy, meaty flesh, and a fine mild flavor. Delete “at the farm—producing”

The Stupice (pronounced "stu-peach-ka") are originally from the former Czech Republic. They are cold-tolerant and great for areas with a short growing season. They have a rich, tangy flavor, produce succulent 2-inch fruit and are early to yield.

Cherokee Purples are a lovely fruit with a deep, dusky-rose color and yet maintain a somewhat greenish hue near the stem when ripe for eating. They have a distinctive color of a deep crimson interior and clear skin, making them gorgeous when served sliced on a plate. They can vary to dark purple and are rumored to have come from Cherokee gardeners. They can grow to 3-5 inches.

The Green Zebra varietal has a gentle green flesh with exquisite emerald green striped skin. This fruit boasts a very rich taste that is sweet with a sharp bite. (You’ll have to taste to believe it!) This is a sure-fire favorite of high-class chefs and specialty markets. They are a bit smaller, only up to about 2 ½ inches.

That’s just a small sampling of the thousands of unique varieties of the heirloom tomato. One of our favorite ways to serve these delights is in a traditional Caprese salad, that makes the fruit the star, and complemented with our own HM olive oil, balsamic vinegar, fresh basil and mozzarella cheese – the OG Italian salad.

Want to meet Randy’s circus of tomatoes live and in person? Make a reservation at Harvest Moon Winery and pre-order this delightful salad paired beautifully with our hallmark Russian River Valley wines.

You can also schedule your very own Willowside Learning Farm Tour, led by the passionate and talented Randy. Call the winery directly to make arrangements for a custom tour, lunch and wine tasting experience.