Napa Valley starts to get very busy in August as grape harvest sneaks up on us and is in full swing by September. But, before we tackle grape harvest, we are fortunate to experience a fruitful tomato season!
This year we planted 14 tomato varietals, both heirlooms and hybrids, and they are all finally ripening with the heat we’ve had in Napa Valley the last few weeks.
Here’s a little plant 101, in case you need some brushing up…
Heirloom varieties are open-pollinated, unlike hybrids, and are often passed down from generation to generation. When the plants of an open-pollinated variety self-pollinate or are pollinated by another representative of the same variety, the resulting seeds will produce plants roughly identical to their parents.
Hybrids are created when plant breeders cross-pollinate two different varieties of a plant with the goal of producing a plant with the best traits from each of the parents. Cross-pollination is a natural process that can occur within members of the same plant species. Sungolds are, for example, a hybrid and prove that hybrids can have tons of flavor.
Now for a guide to what is growing on our farm and what you can find in our restaurant and farmer’s market:
The Pink Brandywine gets its name from its hometown Brandywine, PA. This heirloom is one of the most well-known. It has a potato leaf shape that can look like a heart. These tomatoes are super sweet and really meaty.
AUNT RUBY’S GERMAN GREEN
A family heirloom from Ruby Arnold of Greeneville, TN, Aunt Ruby’s German Green is slightly acidic and really sweet with a hint of spiciness.
This heirloom tomato is originally from Krim, Russia and is also known as Black Crimea. Sweet, smoky, and a little bit salty, when the Black Krim gets a lot of heat it turns a violet-brown/purple-red (almost black) color. This year these are thriving in Napa Valley!
A predecessor of the “mortgage lifter” tomato, the heirloom German Johnson has a deep, acidic tomato flavor and a rich, creamy texture.
The Indigo Rose is commonly referred to as a blue tomato and was bred by Wild Boar farms in Napa for high levels of anthocyanins. These small tomatoes are high in antioxidants.
Sun golds are an exceptionally sweet, bright tangerine-orange cherry tomato. They are like candy with a tropical fruit flavor and are great right off the vine directly into your mouth.
The heirloom Black Pineapple, also known as Ananas Noire, is sweet with low acid and a hearty smoky flavor.
There are several white tomatoes, but we like the heirloom Great White. It is meaty with few seeds, and has a mild non-acid flavor and a creamy texture.
Gold Medal, an heirloom from Ohio, is an overwhelmingly sweet and meaty yellow tomato with red stripes.
PINK BERKELEY TIE DYE
The Pink Berkeley Tie Dye tomato was developed by Brad Gates of Wild Boar Farms. It’s a psychedelic dark pink tomato with green stripes and the flavor is sweet, rich and complex.
Early Girl tomatoes are named as such because they bear fruit earlier than most other tomato varietals. These tomatoes are extremely popular in the US and are often found in backyard gardens.
Another Wild Boar Farms hybrid, the Solar Flare is luscious and meaty with a slightly sweet full tomato flavor.
This Russian heirloom tomato has an almost cult following for its distinctive, sweet and smoky flavor. It was lovingly named in honor of Paul Robeson, the famous opera singer and equal rights advocate.
A small cherry variety from Wild Boar Farms, a ripe blue berry tomato is dark purple where it received the most sunlight and deep red where the fruit was shaded. These tomatoes are super-rich in anthocyanins and the flavor is intensely fruity and sugar-sweet.
BLUE GOLD BERRIES
Blue Gold Berry tomatoes are incredibly beautiful purple and yellow cherry tomatoes. These little tomatoes are bursting with loads of antioxidants and the flavor is very sweet and rich.
These port wine colored cherry tomatoes have metallic silver green stripes with an outrageous rich, sweet flavor.
As you can see, there are so many wonderful tomatoes out there right now and there are 101 ways to use them - from a juicy BLT to a luscious sauce to a easy snack. Check out our restaurant, chef’s table or farmer’s market for inspiration!
ARTISAN OF THE MONTH
Name: Lindsay Swetsky
What is your role at Long Meadow Ranch (LMR)?
I am the Pastry Chef taking care of the restaurant, events, and our café at Farmstead.
How long have you been with LMR?
Since May 2017
What has been your favorite project at LMR?
During this especially hot summer, I got inspired to create a “Sunday Sundae” ice cream special to offer a cool and creative treat to cap off the weekend. I’m obsessed with ice creams reminiscent of being a kid and piling on all the toppings I can get my hands on. Now on Sundays, I can fill a big mason jar with something I’m craving like campfire S’mores. Or when I see fantastic berries, I can highlight those in the Sundae.
What do you wish other people knew about LMR?
It’s a fantastic shopping spot with the Farmer’s Market on the weekends and the General Store for all sorts of culinary gifts. It is quickly replacing my trips to the grocery store and the mall!
Tell us how you got into pastry. Was it a natural fit from the start or did you take various avenues before landing in the field?
I grew up baking at my grandparents’ homes in Brooklyn and I loved seeing my family’s reactions when it came time for our homemade desserts. It didn’t take long for me to decide that’s what I wanted to do as a career.
What kind of trends are you seeing in the pastry/dessert industry?
Miniature desserts are a very eye-catching trend that I like, because it allows people to indulge and enjoy a fully-composed treat without completely stuffing themselves. At the restaurant at Farmstead, our Big Easy beignets and the mini cookie jar are great ways to have a little bit of dessert or a lot, I won’t tell!
What inspires you?
The evolving seasons. At LMR, I get to keep an open mind and create desserts based on the fruit harvested that week. Instead of committing to a menu and ordering fruit purees, I literally see what comes in and use it that week. One week, we received 800# of beautiful cherries! Next up will be an influx of figs from our Rutherford Estate. There is always something different ripening in Napa that inspires me.
Best vacation you have ever taken?
Last year I took a trip to Puerto Rico, which I loved. The island had the perfect balance of rich history at El Morro fort and natural wonders in El Yunque and the Bioluminescent Bay.
Red or white wine?
White then red.
Bike or motorcycle?
Sushi or pizza?
Pizza, extra cheese.
iphone or Android?
AT THE TABLE
Our 2015 Long Meadow Ranch Chardonnay, Anderson Valley pairs perfectly with the flakey dough, tart tomatoes and creamy goat cheese.
Recipe Courtesy of Kipp Ramsey
Serves 6-8 ppl
2-3 ea heirloom tomatoes, different varieties and colors are preferred
¼ cup parmesan
¼ cup fresh goat chevre
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, torn
1 ea egg (for wash)
flake finishing salt
fresh cracked black pepper
1 pie dough (see recipe below)
Preheat oven to 400F.
Slice heirloom tomatoes 1/8 inch thick, season with salt on both sides, and allow to sit for 3-5 minutes to draw out some of the moisture. Blot with paper towels or kitchen towel to remove excess moisture.
Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough in a circle 12-14 inches in diameter and about 1/6 inch thick. Transfer the dough over to a sheet of parchment paper and sprinkle the parmesan over the center of the crust.
Arrange the tomatoes over the cheese alternating colors and slightly shingling them. Place goat cheese around the top and finish with torn basil (reserve some for garnish) and fresh cracked black pepper.
Fold the outer ½ inch of dough over itself to form an even lip around the galette, then begin to fold the dough over the tomatoes forming a series of pleats. Brush the outside crust liberally with the beaten egg.
Bake until the galette is golden brown, 40 to 50 minutes. Let cool completely, then garnish with flaky sea salt and basil leaves. Slice and serve.
2 ½ cup all purpose flour
½ T salt
7 ½ oz unsalted butter, cold and grated using a box grater
2-3 oz water
Mix flour and salt in a large bowl. Add grated butter and egg yolks. Add water slowly as needed.
Wrap the dough and chill at least 30 minutes before rolling.