Many years ago, I was introduced to an antique yellow beefsteak tomato from an organic farmer. It was huge and had the typical markings of a beefsteak that you may all be familiar with. It was this tomato that gave me a love of heritage varieties, organics and the pure adventure of food.
I made a simple tomato sauce from this antique yellow beefsteak, with garlic, fresh basil and a touch of whipping cream. It made the most delicious pasta dish I ever had. And I have never been able to have it again. I even save the seeds from that tomato so I could plant my own the following year but I am pathetic gardener.
For me, it is such a shame that people do not know about this tomato and other heritage varieties. I have had many heirloom varieties since and they all taste better than the hybrids that clutter up our grocery stores. This is what people need to know they are missing. This will inspire them to develop a renewed love of whole foods. This will show them how much we have been robbed of flavour in our modern food.
So it was with great surprise that I saw this gorgeous, antique yellow beefsteak tomato in my local health foods store in winter no less. I was thrilled and excited. And the fact that it was not an antique yellow beefsteak is just a minor detail I choose to ignore.
I really feel we have made progress, slow as it might be. In a part of the food world that only serves a minority of people – the health food store – I was delighted that I could see such an amazing sight. My biggest dilemma was whether I dare to buy one and make the sauce I had had so many years ago. Do I tamper with the memory? It took two weeks but I finally did the deed and bought the tomato and below is the recipe I made.
Now as it happens, the tomato I saw and bought is a yellow brandywine tomato. I had to google it to find out. Many consider the brandywine the tastiest of the heirloom tomatoes – it is tasty but never limit yourself – there are many, many more that are just as tasty and that is what makes it an adventure in food.
If taste is not enough of a reason for you, a 2008 report on heirloom tomatoes found that they all have a higher phytonutrient content in comparison to modern hybrids. Research is ongoing in this area but it is not unlike research on apple varieties and other foods. Modern hybrids are not bred for nutrient or taste content. They are bred for shelf life, uniformity and other tasty reasons like this. Who loses in the hybrid exercise – we do.
So go to your local health food store or maybe it might be in your grocery store and see what you can find. Let’s show food retailers with our dollars that we want more varieties of, not just tomatoes, but other fruits and vegetables. Let’s talk to the farmers at farmer’s market and encourage them. Let’s get our food back to where it should be.
As for the tomato sauce, this is a good prebiotic recipe as both tomatoes and garlic are prebiotic. The cream is a source of butyrate, a beneficial short chain fatty acid, and GOS, another prebiotic. If you choose to make this with coconut milk, then you are adding two beneficial fatty acids that aid gut health. Of course, if you use yogurt you are adding a probiotic food. Also, using raw milk, organic, aged parmesan adds another probiotic food. Here is the recipe for the tomato sauce plus a really yummy vegetables dish using the sauce, loaded with more prebiotics.
Brandywine Tomato Sauce
1 large brandywine tomato or equivalent amount of any heirloom tomato*
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped and left to rest for 20 minutes
1-2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped or 2 tsp dried
Sea salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp whipping cream or full-fat coconut or 1-2 tbsp full-fat yogurt
Remove the centre stem piece and cut the tomatoes into small chunks. Place in a saucepan. Add the garlic and bring to a boil. Add the cream or coconut milk (do not add yogurt at this time if using). Continue to cook and let the mixture reduce a bit (5 minutes) seasoned with sea salt and pepper to taste. If using yogurt, add after it has been removed from the heat.
Serve the sauce over whole grain pasta such as whole wheat or brown rice or add to a medley of steamed vegetables.
*Organic cherry tomatoes are the best substitute is you cannot find heirloom tomatoes
Vegetables with Brandywine Tomato Sauce
1 recipe Brandywine Tomato Sauce
1/4 cup white onions, chopped
2 small or 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into small pieces
2 large black or green kale leaves
1/2 medium zucchini, cut in half and sliced
2 cups cauliflower, cut in small pieces
1/2 cup cooked black beans, rinsed
1 tsp fresh basil, chopped and 1 tsp dried
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Fresh, aged parmesan cheese or cheese alternative (optional)
Place the sweet potatoes and onion in a colander. Rest the colander in a saucepan that has two inches of water in the bottom. Place on the stove and bring water to a boil. Cover with a lid. Let the sweet potatoes and onions steam for 7 minutes. Add the kale and cauliflower and steam for another 4 minutes. Add the basil, if using dried. Add the zucchini and cook for 3 more minutes. While the vegetables are cooking either make the Brandywine Tomato Sauce or re-heat it, if it was made ahead of time. Add the black beans to the sauce, just to heat. Transfer the vegetables to a serving dish and top with the sauce. Season with sea salt, fresh basil (if using) and pepper. Top with cheese, if using. Serve