Heirloom tomatoes have been becoming more and more popular with every summer. They usually look a bit odd in shape and a variety of colors from dark brown to green striped, yellow, and spotted red. Heirloom almost seems that they are wild and exotic. They have actually been around for more than 50 years, pre-WWII. Their seeds are typically unique to the area they grow and their specific traits, meaning their size, flavor, and colors are basically hand selected by the gardener or farmer. That means that they know which seeds produce which kind of heirloom variety of tomato. They are an open pollinating plant, which means there is no human interaction with how the plants pollinate. It is done the way nature intended, via wind and insects.
When there is human interaction in pollinating and the entire process from seed to produce, this is usually what we call GMO. GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. The creation of the seed is altered in a biological level that brings out the specific traits of the produce. It is essentially genetically engineered. The final product when it is a GMO tomato we wouldn't get in a natural setting. GMO tomatoes were the first plant to be available to the market in the 1990s and the reason for the creation of GMO tomatoes was to increase shelf life. This irks me!!! When we purchase produce at most grocery stores and markets it was usually picked very underripe so that it can travel to the grocer, sit on the shelf for days or more until we the consumer purchases it and then let is sit in our fridge for another few days or week. Completely loosing the integrity of the beautifully nourishing and delicious produce.
This is why I advocate so much going to your local farmers markets and purchasing the majority of your produce there. It is usually picked a day or 2 before the market and travels within 50 miles of the farmers market. The produce you are purchasing is so much more nutritional and delicious. We eat food for nutritional purposes, we enjoy food for its decadent taste, and we share food with the people we love and care about. So why do we purchase non nutritional, less delicious food to prepare and share? This idea that we have to purchase from a grocery store just doesn't seem right. Now with that being said, yes sometimes I do make the quick run to my local grocery store to pick up a few items I didn't get at the farmers market or wanted to prepare on a whim. I am trying to change that myself, because I understand that its not the best for me and not as delicious as the ones from the market.
The reason I am writing this post is not to change all your habits of how you purchase your produce. But to inspire you to start going to your local markets and finding out what varieties of fruits and vegetables the farmer has grown. The more local the farmer the less likely their produce is GMO. They may not be certified organic, but they are farming in an organic way. Start with purchasing tomatoes. An heirloom tomato versus a genetically modified tomato really does taste different.
Eating and heirloom tomato in Bastille Market in Paris, France. Sept. 2015