I don’t know tomatoes. I suppose I know them enough. I eat them and love them and know not to buy them in January, when their bright waxy redness is a little too Stepford.
But I don’t know tomatoes, at least the be-all-end-all heirlooms. I have no academic knowledge informing me of the distinctions between Mortgage Lifters and Cherokee Purples, between White Wonders and Green Zebras. I’m not a hands-in-dirt kind of person (I have yet, as a card-carrying adult, to grow a single vegetable), the type who might be handy at identifying Brandywines or Black Krims. (And what might those of esteemed tomato knowledge be called anyway? Tomateys [following the pattern of ‘wineys’]? Tom Snobs? They’re out there, self-importantly tomato-name dropping.)
I may be ignorant, but I’m blissfully buying these tomatoes anyway. The girls and I wandered head-on into a great jumble of heirlooms in giant cardboard bins at the market the other day. Of course we stocked up, making our selections based on this quirk or that lump, this variegation or that dottiness. We bought more than we thought we could eat, because how could we choose? This petite yellow pointy one or this weighty burgundy one?
And, even though we don’t know the names of what we’re eating, we’re being rewarded for our dauntless sampling of these tomatoes in all their ornamental and flavor diversity.
The remarkable thing, the thing I can’t stop marveling over? Each tomato tastes different, and none taste just plain ‘tomato.’ One had a rich, winey taste. Another was almost beefy, if that’s possible. One had a definite sour punctuation.
So although names have poetic and practical place, who cares what these tomatoes are called when they taste so good? I’m not about to stop dripping tomato slush down my chin to check my heirloom tomato flashcards.
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