The Blueberry Hill Vegetables stand sells 100% organic noms grown at a local farm less than an hour and half’s drive out of the District. (And we all know how great local eating is for the environment!) Don’t let the name Blueberry mislead you, they deal primarily in veggies — unless you’re with the whole science crowd and consider tomatoes to be fruits.
A few of their more delicious looking items were the swiss chard, cherry and cocktail tomatoes, dandelion greens, celery, basil, peppers, celery, onions, and garlic.
But there was one item that really stood out above the rest. Although it’s something most people “know” about, it’s hard not to be surprised at how different these are from the grocery-store-variety when you actually see and hold a real one in your own hands. These are plump and firm, deceptively dense, meaty, and shaped so uniquely that they’re sometimes called “ugly tomatoes.” And right now is the best time to get them.
I’m speaking of course about heirloom tomatoes.
While looking at the tomatoes, a shopper approached me just to tell me how amazingly wonderful these particular tomatoes were — how they reminded her of her childhood in World War II, and how she used to pluck them out of her mother’s garden.
That’s a powerful tomato. The reason they’re so ugly? The tomatoes you buy in the grocery store are bred primarily for appearance — perfect round shape, very high yields, and quick to grow, many store bought tomatoes are artificially “ripened” in storage with ethylene gas.
Heirloom tomatoes, on the other hand, are all about the flavor. Even if you only want to put pretty things in your mouth, the difference in taste between a tomato that’s been cultivated for generations to produce flavor so powerful it can knock you back to your childhood, and an artificially red, comparatively flavorless, sometimes mealy but always perfectly round tomato should quickly convince you to abandon your aesthetic exclusivity.
The season for these tomatoes can sometimes go late into October, but cold weather and other dangers like tomato blight and pests can often cut short the growing season of chemical-free food. You should note too that the color does matter: the deeper the green, the more acidic and earthy it will taste; the brighter the red, the more sweet and light it will taste. Pick to your liking and use them in anything from gazpacho to sauces to salads to perfect patty toppers at your next gril lout.
When I asked about their food being organic, one of the three men behind the stand interjected, “I’ve never used a single chemical!” To which the younger of the three chuckled then mumbled, “Well, I don’t believe that. The vegetables though…” So, there you have it, the Blueberry Hill Vegetables are organic; the farmers aren’t.
The FRESHFARM farmers’ market on Foggy Bottom runs from April 1st to November 25th. Check it out on Wednesdays from 2:30pm to 7pm, located on I St between 24th St NW and New Hampshire (right by the FoBo metro). Find out more at their site.
Eatin’ Fresh! is a weekly series covering different stands and items at the FoBo Farmers’ Market — want us to cover something in particluar? Let us know in the comments!
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