Tom O’Neal has been growing tomatoes for over 20 years – so he definitely knows a thing or two about getting you the tastiest tomato in Tennessee. We’re bringing in a limited amount of Tom’s heirlooms right now while they are at their summer peak – sweet, juicy, and delicious.
“These tomatoes are grown for flavor,” Tom told us, “while commercialized slicing tomatoes are grown for shelflife and shipping.” You’ll be able to taste decades of history in these tomatoes from Tom’s Signal Mountain Farm – he grows 15 to 18 different varieties of heirlooms every year – including a handful of old German varieties and a local favorite -- the Cherokee Purple.
Defining an heirloom vegetable can be a bit like defining sustainability – everyone’s got their own take on it. But there are some things most farmers agree on. An heirloom tomato seed must be produced naturally via open pollination (as opposed to hybrid tomatos which are produced through a mechanical, controlled pollination process). Tom describes these natural tomatoes as “genuine to the true seed”. If you plant a Cherokee Purple, you get a Cherokee Purple.
If you're curious about the Cherokee Purple, Victory Seeds offers this description:
Originally given to author and tomato authority Craig LeHoullier in 1990 by John "J.D." Green of Sevierville, Tennessee. Mr. Green reported that he had been given the seeds by a neighbor named Jean Greenlee of Rutledge, Tennessee in 1986-1987. Her grandfather had received them from Cherokee Indians some hundred years prior.
All Heirloom seeds have been handed down for generations – 50, 100, or even hundreds of years of the same variety passed on like a treasure.
Heirlooms taste of a place, picking up the flavors and adapting to the lands where they are cultivated. Tom farms outside of Chattanooga, TN and brings his unique perspective to the place he grew up. Signal Mountain Farm is certified organic and we’re lucky to get this shipment of tomatoes delivered direct.
Growing heirlooms isn’t for everyone. Tom described it as a “tricky business”. Heirlooms have a very short shelf-life, are difficult to ship, and tend to be somewhat delicate. But, when you bite into one, we think you’ll agree with Tom that it’s worth the effort!
Order up a case of these Tennessee heirlooms today and get them on the menu tonight!