Make Room for the Heirloom

Say what you will about August, it’s been a good growing summer in Virginia. I adore heirloom tomatoes and more varieties are showing up at markets each year. Heirlooms were once grown commercially, back when the total focus was on taste, and hundreds of varieties were available. That changed when farmers started growing tomatoes to be shipped, then the emphasis shifted to tough skins, round fruit, and standard sizes. Taste has nothing to do with it.
Heirloom tomatoes are seasonal, so grab them while you can. They have been plentiful this summer at the local farmers markets, and if you pair them with fresh mozzarella, basil, and a little balsamic vinegar, they are heaven. My favorite variety is still a Cherokee Purple with its high acidity tang. Harder to find are the Black Russian Krims, but the smoky sweet flavor makes it one of the tastiest tomatoes out there. Here are some of the local markets where they are available, along with other veggies and treats. Go early for the best selection, and no hard feelings if you get between me and my Krims.
Carytown Farmers Market, open 9:00-10:00 on Sundays is at the City Stadium, 3201 Maplewood Avenue. A great spot where farmers, artisans, makers, and food trucks sell their wares. Plenty of parking and it’s dog-friendly.
Farmers Market @ Saint Stephen’s, a favorite, features some great vendors with a wide variety of items including local sausage and ribs, salad mix, craft baked goods, plants, and far too many items to mention here. Opens at 8:00 on Saturday May-September, 9:00 October-April. It’s located at 6000 Grove Avenue.
Huguenot-Robious Farmers Market in the parking lot of Great Big Greenhouse features locally grown produce, flowers, cheese, meats, and crafts. Open Thursdays 10:00-2:00 at 2051 Huguenot Road.
The West End Farmers Market at 1300 Gayton Road features fruits and vegetables, herbs, meat, fish, picked items, spices, soap, poultry, sausage, and baked goods. Open 8:00-12:00 on Saturday.
Lakeside Farmers Market is a year-round market with an indoor pavilion featuring local produce, meat, cheese, and handmade items. Open 9:00-2:00 Wednesdays and 8:00-12:00 Saturdays at 6110 Lakeside Ave.
South of the James Farmers Market is located in Forest Hill Park at the corner of New Kent and 42nd Street. It’s open Thursdays from 4:00-7:00 May through October. It’s a great spot where farmers and artisans sell locally grown and hand-made items

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