Heirloom Tomatoes Invade the Farmers’ Markets in a Big Way


Heirloom tomatoes are currently available at nearly one-third of the stands at the Union Square Greenmarket.

Two weeks ago, it was hard to find an heirloom tomato in the city’s farmers’ markets. Sure, there were plenty of hothouse tomatoes from New York and North Jersey, and plenty of field tomatoes from South Jersey, which were the first to arrive almost two months ago. But the number of heirlooms has increased exponentially since then, so that now you see them everywhere you look, bursting with subtle colors and exotic flavors. In fact, there are more of them than there are standard breeds of tomato this time of year.

The tomatoes run from yellow micros shaped like lemon gum drops to humpy purple-brown heirlooms spread out like chaise lounges. These tomatoes have plenty of imperfections, occasional bad spots, and are often traced with delicate hieroglyphs. They deteriorate quickly and should really be eaten the minute you get them home, or before.

Some were seen this past Monday as cheap as $3.50 per pound, and the price is sure to slip further. This is as cheap as they got a decade ago, when they were a real oddity, and a revelation. Now, for a month in late summer, they are the main tomato in town.