Seasonally simple garden Heirloom tomatoes. Celebrating Summer’s arrival.

This consistently cool weather had us apprehensive, particularly as heirloom tomato gardeners. With almost 20 heirloom tomatoes plants that we’ve been nurturing over the last few months, all we were hoping for was some hot sun to get these plants to bolt out with tomatoes. Unfortunately there hasn’t been much of the sun!

May and June gloom kept our tomatoes from ripening as intended and as impatient gardeners, the weather left us staring at green tomatoes for the last few months.

We could either pickle the green tomatoes like we often do, or just wait patiently and be as tolerant as we could to allow them to ripen. Trust us, it can get excruciatingly painful to stare at green tomatoes for months when you’re craving sweet red ones.

When patches of late afternoon sun would peak out, the tomatoes were soaking up every bit of nurturing warmth. Finally, after, what seems like a decade, some of the heirloom tomatoes started to ripen to their true, sweet colors. Occasionally one or two would ripen up and we’d eat those in one sitting.

snow white heirloom cherry tomatoes

But what we were anxiously waiting for was an actual harvest full of tomatoes, meaning at least 10 tomatoes. Five for each of us. That’s a fair split and substantial meal.

With this first substantial batch of ripe heirloom tomatoes, there was only one way to enjoy them. A simple, seasonally appropriate preparation of sliced garden heirloom tomatoes with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar is perfection on a plate. Add a dusting of good sea salt, fresh cracked black pepper and aromatically sweet fresh basil. Now finally, that is perfection on a plate.

left: sweet 100 cherry. right: green zebra

Sometimes heirloom tomatoes get too much thought when it comes to preparation. Canning, stewing or drying a batch of gorgeous heirloom tomatoes is great if you have an abundance of them. But for us, to really appreciate the delicacy and treasure of an heirloom tomato is to eat it as it was meant to be: raw and fresh.

Just the heirloom tomato sliced on a place with simple accompaniments is all it takes to eat seasonally simple and to celebrate the arrival of Summer.

Less is more, especially when it comes to a good heirloom.

above: “jewel” enchantment heirlooms

above: Neves Azorean Red & Black Krim & Green Zebra

above: sun gold cherry

above: Pinot heirloom

enough tomatoes for a full meal!

Heirloom Tomato Salad Recipe

This recipe is so simple, it doesn't really even need a write up!


  • fresh, sweet heirloom tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • fresh basil
  • sea or kosher salt
  • fresh cracked black pepper


1. Slice tomatoes and drizzle with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Slice or tear fresh basil leaves on top. Enjoy!

Recipe Source:

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Recipe Note for Salt: All recipes containing salt are based on kosher or sea salt amounts, not table salt. If using table salt, reduce the amount used to taste.

{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }
  1. Roberta

    I’ve got he same anxious attitude towards my green tomatoes!:-)
    Hopefully they will ripen in the next weeks and I will finally be rewarded for my patience…
    I do agree with you ‘less is more’!

    p.s. Stunning photos, love your work!

  2. Christine

    Wonderful photos! I’m having serious tomato sadness here because I didn’t plant any this year. Other things in life cropped up. Your pics have me revved to hit at least one farmers market this week. I can just taste them now.

  3. Scott @ Tomatomania

    PS I’m growing 95 varieties in our R& D field in Ojai this year. Mostly weird stuff that we’ve never seen and need to know about. If a photo extravaganza mid-season sounds fun I can provide fruit. Or come up here and join us in August, as a few of us will be doing that one weekend during harvest. (Check out last year’s photos in the gallery section of our website!)

  4. Scott @ Tomatomania

    Todd, Diane, OK, those pics are outrageous. Again, outrageous.

    If you’d ever be interested in a gallery showing would love to tie that in with one of my springtime tomato seedling events. Maybe at Cornerstone Sonoma next April? Don’t know if you ever do anything like that but I and several other “Tomatomaniacs” have been ooohing and ahhhing at your shots for a while and we’d love to have you join us.

    Contact me at the e-mail above if that’s of interest…and keep up the amazing work.

  5. Shaina

    I, too, have been waiting for the weather to warm so my heirloom tomatoes would take off. After an early 102-degree day, though, we dropped right back down into the 60s for weeks. The promise of sunshine this week has me excited, as I have several green tomatoes hanging on vines just waiting.

    Your heirlooms look like they were well worth the wait. Hopefully I’ll be saying the same soon.

  6. sally cameron

    Beautiful, beautiful! Wish I had room to grow them. So many wonderful varieties to enjoy. I’ll have to depend on farmers markets…or stopping by your house to beg for some! Will work for tomatoes.

  7. Steve-Anna

    I’ve been craving tomatoes, especially heirlooms, this summer. What a gorgeous post!! I wish I could come visit and help you harvest. Maybe I could send some of our plentiful Arizona sun your way?

  8. Amy

    Oh lovely heirlooms! I have to admit that I am still getting my tomatoes in the garden–today I planted Cherokee Purple, Dr. Wynche’s, and Mama Leone.

  9. Lisa | Life in Green

    Oh so jealous. Beautiful pictures! Look forward to seeing more

    I’ve still got maybe a good month yet before any heirloom tomatoes harvested from my garden. Your pic of Neves Azorean Red makes me miss that one. I grew it a couple years ago and it was wonderful!

    This year I have: Cuostralee, Cherokee Green, Aunt Ginny’s Purple and Hillbilly. I usually do a black and didn’t get one in this year.

  10. SixBalloons

    Yum… I am growing Black Krim and Sungold this year too, and I can’t wait for my bounty. I’m so excited to eat my home grown tomatoes after sufferring through the bland and well travelled ones available to me over the past few months. I agree – heirlooms are best appreciated raw and simply dressed. Beautiful photos!

  11. kristin

    Stunning photos!

  12. Laura @ SweetSavoryPlanet

    I love sungolds and green zebra’s! hmmm. I love green tomatoes too. I am from the south so I might have to make some fried green tomatoes. HMMMM.

  13. May - So Very Domestic

    Beautiful photos!! This is my second year really gardening and since we just bought a house I’m in planters until we move mid-summer. Next year, I hope to have tomatoes as wonderful as these. So lovely!

  14. Joanne

    Another Georgian here. We started our seeds in Feb with grow lights and well even with our heat, our tomatoes are slow going. We’ve got Romas, Brandywines, blondknopftchens, jellybeans and big boys going. The cherokee purples didn’t make it past the 3 week stage. Had a bit of blossom rot on the big boys, but the romas are looking good. We’ve been harvesting basil, green beans, and cucumbers, but the tomatoes are slow going and I’m just itching for a ripe garden tomato.

  15. Mairi @ Toast

    What beautiful tomatoes….so worth the wait :) As always the most beautiful photos.

  16. jen

    so jealous of your ripe tomatoes! I’m still staring at the green ones over in HB.

  17. bunkycooks

    I love your photos of all the beautiful heirloom tomatoes growing in your yard. So many varieties and types…they are really beautiful. I just might have to take you up on your offer to come and pick a few! :)

  18. Akika @ Ichigo Shortcake

    Your tomatoes look absolutely beautiful. Being an avid lover of tomatoes, seeing anything tomatoey will make my mouth water. I’d love to pop one of those sweet cherry tomatoes in my mouth right now!
    I’ve also been thinking about growing my own fruits and veggies, but to buy a larger piece of land here in Melbourne Australia will cost heaps. :( For now, I’ll just have to stick to buying them from the grocery store…

  19. Quyen - Kitchen Runway

    That first picture was just amazing! I just stopped and said WOW! I think I’m the only person that can’t grow! :) Those tomatoes are beautiful and I didn’t know there were so many different varieties of heirloom tomatoes. You’re right – enjoying them raw & fresh is the way to go!

  20. Muy Bueno Cookbook

    I knew you were growing these gorgeous jewels of summer and couldn’t wait to see the final product. The tomato salad looks simply sensual and the pictures, well, breathtakingly flawless. Hoping to find some at my local Farmers Market. Thanks for the recipe. Besos. Veronica

  21. the good soup

    I’ve got tommy toes, amish pastes and black russians graciously pushing through to our subtropical winter. I say graciously because it must be such an indignity, all that insect attack they suffer, to get this far. I love them so much. Their must be 150 heirloom tomatoes in my last seed catalogue and I hope I live enough summers to plant every one of them.

  22. Lisa

    Those look divine!! I made some mozzarella cheese yesterday and was wishing for some ripe tomatoes, but unfortunately, it is Kansas, and it will be mid-July before we can truly start picking and enjoying!!

  23. Nancy@acommunaltable

    Gorgeous!! I agree, cooking these babies is superfluous!!! Some good olive oil, a splash of vinegar (I love them with a little verjus) and some fleur de sel…. it simply does not get better than that!!!

    Now, if only I had a few of these right now….

  24. Maureen Rose

    If you ever see seed for “Black Krim” I can highly recommend them as the sweetest tomato I have ever grown. Rarely see this variety in markets. Love “Green Zebra” and “Persimmon” as well.

    1. White on Rice Couple

      We love the Black Krims! It tops our list every year for one of our “must haves.” Ours are just barely starting to ripen. We picked our first one two days ago.

  25. norma

    I love these tomatoes…I can’t grow them, but I am always going to the market for them…Beautiful pictures, as usual

  26. Kate @ Savour Fare

    Our tomato plants are ENORMOUS, and budding out all over the place, but like yours, the ripening has been frustratingly slow. We’ve gotten about 5 sungold cherry tomatoes. That’s it. The zucchini are going full blast though, and on the plus side, I’m still getting strawberries and peas.

  27. Deanna

    I had the same problem with my tomatoes. I’m finally getting some ripe ones which means its tomato sandwich season! Assuming I can get the tomatoes in the house to make it… I usually just eat them all off the vine. I bring salt with me to the garden.

  28. Paula at Dishing The Divine

    We also grow heirloom tomatoes – loads of them! And even though they are 5-6′ tall right now, the weather means that their tomatoes are few and far between and *green*! I hope they turn red by July! :) Anyway, I absolutely love the tomato corn salad posted on my blog. It brings out the great taste of heirloom tomatoes while showcasing sweet corn and spicy basil as well. If you need a way to use up tomatoes, check it out. :)

  29. Nicole Franzen

    one of my all time favorite things to eat is beautiful heirloom tomaotes. Soon come for us here on the east coast. So sweet and delicious with a beautiful flaky sea salt and some fresh basil. Does it get any better? I think not.

  30. TripleScoop

    I can’t wait to enjoy my tomatoes! As like you guys I’m waiting patiently for them to ripen. I hope mine turn out just as delicious as yours look! Have a great week!

  31. The Cilantropist

    There really is nothing better than a raw, fresh, summertime, sun-ripened tomato. It is heaven. Add in that it is heirloom and I will be over the moon! These look fantastic, and I cant believe you have 20 plants! Can’t wait to see what else you share with us.

  32. Lana @ Never Enough Thyme

    Here in Georgia we’ve been enjoying a long stretch of 95+ degree days so our tomatoes are coming in rapidly. I’ve been enjoying the Sun Gold cherry tomatoes and Cherokee Purples for about six weeks now and we still have several late varieties that haven’t started ripening.

    Love your wonderfully simple salad. Down South we also love our tomato sandwiches :-)

  33. Kathryn

    Such beautiful images! Thank you for such a wonderful and inspiring post.

  34. LiztheChef

    Lucky you – my San Diego garden is stalled and way behind schedule.

    1. Lynell

      This is way better than a brick & mortar estbalhimsent.

  35. Vanessa

    My favorite way to eat tomatoes in the Summer when they are at their peak! Lovely photos.

  36. Simmi D. Isaac

    Great tomato pictures! And the simple tomato salad recipe at the end is a timeless one!

  37. Kalyn

    Nothing better! My garden is at least a month away from ripe tomatoes, but I’m getting a lot of green ones.

  38. Michelle

    Plates of sliced tomatoes are the promise of summer. Warm from the sun, salt shaker in one hand, a tomato in the other, juice dripping off the elbow and chin, that is summer.

  39. Ron

    Simple recipe, yes, but I’m drooling already. I can almost feel the plump tomato popping in my mouth, with the juice running down my chin.

    Your pictures are mesmerizing – crack for foodies!

  40. Ellie @ Kitchen Wench

    Stunning! I absolutely love growing and eating heirlooms – unfortunately my crop succumbed to tomato wilt this year so I got very few fruit, but after reading this post I can’t wait till next spring so I can give it another go :)

  41. Gilbert Ho

    Beautiful photos & produce- thanks for sharing!

    I’m looking forward to planting tomatoes this summer here in Australia- got a few packets of heirloom seed in the fridge waiting for spring!

  42. Heidi @ Food Doodles

    Beautiful!! I can’t wait for some gorgeous heirloom tomatoes :) I have to find out where I can get some seeds to start growing my own next year instead of a bunch of the same tomatoes which is what I’ve been doing. That salad looks fantastic, I’ll have to try it with fresh from the garden tomatoes when I get some :)

    1. Gilbert Ho

      Heidi, have you seen Gayla Trail’s blog You Grow Girl? ( She has posts on where she gets her seeds in Canada. Seed Savers Exchange ( is also a good resource.

  43. Sportsgirl

    I’m hoping to grow some heirlooms this summer. Lovely pictures!

  44. Snippets of Thyme

    What wonderful fun collecting your tomatoes and showing each kind to all of us! I enjoyed seeing these and the photographs are beautiful.

  45. Gastronomer

    Congrats on a beautiful and delicious harvest! To many, many more tomatoes this summer :-)

  46. Gosia

    Stunning images, these gems are sure photogenic, too. I’m sorry to hear that even the sunny California isn’t sunny these days. The same gloom persists here in British Columbia… even basil withers as if it had given up on life. I so hope the tomatoes will see the sun real soon. For the moment, I adore the light they have in your photographs.

  47. Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga

    I love all your tomato pictures! Last weekend I walked across the street to the farmers market here in San Diego and took tons of images of produce but my fave was of tomatoes. I adore them and eat at least one per day. Between the market, a CSA share, the grocery store, and this time of year…I am really excited about tomatoes!

    And your photos, as always, beautiful!

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