02 Oct2009


The selection of heirloom or other unusual varieties of tomatoes at the Union Square Market in mid-September was just utterly amazing. This pre-occupation with growing such a wide variety or selection of tomatoes is something that seems to have taken hold only in the last 10 years or so. I read with interest several years ago about a gentleman farmer in France who devoted his “castle garden” to heirloom tomatoes, there have been articles in every major food magazine about such passionate farmers and backyard gardeners in California and elsewhere that have such wonderful produce. I have also come across these in restaurants and I have always wanted to grow them myself. But several attempts and dozens of seed packets later, I have failed miserably. Now I am advised that tomatoes need a cool evening early in their life and a distinct switch in temperature from night to day to get the best ones going… we just don’t seem to have the right conditions in Manila/Cebu for these tomatoes.


So I had to settle for eye candy. Food porn. And for a tomato lover, this was absolutely amazing. At least 8 different farmers at the Union Square market had tomatoes on offer. And the photos here only showcase a fraction of what was there. So enjoy. I don’t even know the names of many of these varieties, but I do know that I could have purchased ten kilos easily and had a beautiful tomato salad for lunch for a week straight. Sister did acquire a few tomatoes for dinner that evening, along with some of the last ears of corn, and some gorgeous sea bass and dinner was bliss.


Yellows, reds, oranges, pear-shaped, cherry sized…


I loved the irregularity of shape, the imperfections. I have always been wary of perfectly brilliant looking grocery tomatoes.


Some were nearly the size of baseballs, or bigger!


And even the pale, green and plum colored ones looked amazing!


Some varieties looked striated, or two-toned in color.


They weren’t cheap, but they were well worth the expense.


Now if only some local growers could figure out how to raise these in Bukidnon, Davao or Baguio. An open call to Puentespina, Dole, Dizon, etc., some heirloom tomatoes please. Please?! :)



  1. kurzhaar says:

    That, coincidentally, is what I have been having for dinner each night this week–the last tomatoes from my garden. Tonight I had: Gold Medal (bicolor red/yellow), Paul Robeson (black), Matt’s Wild Cherry (red), Black Cherry, and Isis Candy (orange-to-pink marbled). Earlier in the week I also had Ananas Noir (tricolor yellow/green/red) and a lovely Sudduth’s Brandywine. I’ve had them plain, with olive oil, with buffalo-milk mozzarella. All delicious. There’s just nothing like home-grown tomatoes. :)

    For your readers, the photos reminded me of a couple of storage tips. NEVER refrigerate tomatoes. You will spoil the nicest home-grown, sun-ripened tomato by chilling it. Store the tomato upside down if possible (resting on the stem end as that is last to ripen) to minimize bruising.

    Oct 2, 2009 | 1:57 pm


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  3. Marketman says:

    kurzhaar, ARRGGGH, I am so envious of your garden bounty! And yes, NEVER refrigerate a tomato. :)

    Oct 2, 2009 | 2:09 pm

  4. betty q. says:

    Kurzhaar: Have you ever tried Green Grape cherry tomato (lime green when ripe)?. It is sweet….very sweet! Much , much better than Isis Candy. I have harvested the last of my tomatoes and oven roasted them like sun dried and made them into Red Pesto.

    Oct 2, 2009 | 2:24 pm

  5. junb says:

    Tomato is my comfort food along with a fried fish. I can eat tomato as salad or as a dipping sauce along with bagoong/patis or rock salt. A pasta sauce made of fresh tomato with basil, olives, garlic and olive oil is also the best.

    Oct 2, 2009 | 3:03 pm

  6. ntgerald says:

    Tomatoes are mostly a dry season crop for farmers in the Philippines, like cantaloupes and watermelon. You water them regularly and fertilize while they are young. When about to bear fruit, withhold this feeding regimen a bit. If it rains heavily or a typhoon comes along, all your plants perish.

    I grew tomatoes in my grade school garden plot and couldn’t get any fruits from them because I obsessed with watering and fertilizing. When I was gone for two weeks to attend the national boy scout jamboree in Nueva Ecija (I grew up in Iloilo), no one took care of my plants. That was when we harvested bucketfuls of tomatoes.

    Oct 2, 2009 | 4:08 pm

  7. cumin says:

    My first time to know tomatoes shouldn’t be refrigerated. Learn something new everyday! China has beautiful tomatoes that locals treat as a fruit rather than a veg (which is how I think about them) and they nibble them at their desk at work or pass around as snacks during workshops.

    Oct 2, 2009 | 5:13 pm

  8. faith says:

    May I know the rationale behind not refrigerating tomatoes? And this goes for the hot, humid tropical weather in the Philippines as well? First time I’ve heard it too. My mom always keep her tomatoes in the ref. And in supermarkets here, they are in the cold section. Going from the cold section to not being refrigerated in my house, they won’t keep as well, right?

    Oct 2, 2009 | 6:25 pm

  9. Marketman says:

    faith, when you put tomatoes in the refrigerator, or close to 35-40F, the tomatoes turn a little mealy, or a lot mealy, their texture and taste seems to be affected noticeably. For salad tomatoes, or anything I eat raw, I can usually tell if a tomato has been refrigerated beforehand. Also, if you buy a slightly underipe tomato, just leave it on the kitchen counter and it will ripen brilliantly, which it won’t if put in a fridge. The best way to convince yourself is to buy a couple of nice salad tomatoes at a good source, where you are certain it has NOT previously been chilled. Then, leave a couple of tomatoes out on the counter, and refrigerate a few. A day or two later, taste them side by side. Refrigeration may extend the life of a tomato a few days, but it will be less palatable. And they last out on the counter for several days… Finally, if you really want to speed the ripening process, stick a tomato in a brown paper bag and fold the top, something about the gases given off helps to ripen the tomato… Here is a link that might interest you, and another one here… Now if all of the groceries would only listen to this advice. That’s why I rarely buy tomatoes in a grocery. :)

    Oct 2, 2009 | 6:41 pm

  10. faith says:

    I love learning new stuff here! Thanks, MM! ^__^

    Oct 2, 2009 | 7:47 pm

  11. noes says:

    This is what kind of tomatoes I grew up with. Miss them.

    Oct 2, 2009 | 8:18 pm

  12. Ernie says:

    Thanks for the info MM! I didn’t know that either. I know now what you mean by the tomato being mealy since I’ve eaten tomatoes before right out of the fridge. I didn’t like it at all. Unfortunately, it is a habit of mine to put them in the fridge right away when I get home. Ugh! And I try my best to get them from the farmer’s market here on weekends just so they’re fresh and I’m the one who ruins them.

    Oct 2, 2009 | 9:46 pm

  13. thelma says:

    i bought heirloom tomato seeds and i plan to experiment to see if they will survive
    in the philippines. i hope they will…

    Oct 2, 2009 | 11:53 pm

  14. betty q. says:

    MM and Thelma: try this, if the weather is waaay too hot. …a shading cap or one of those shading cloth over hoops out of PVC pipes….but make sure there is air circulation passing through the hoop tunnel. Tomatoes, zucchini, melons, squash, eggplants, peppers….all warm season crops. But here when the weather gets really hot like over 38 degrees, I put shading cloth over them and water at night or early morning.

    Try the shading cloth trick, Thelma…with some of the tomato plants that wil come up as part of your experiment!

    Oct 3, 2009 | 1:06 am

  15. trattoria il timone says:

    married to an italian and i tell you! they love & they know their tomatoes. The italians make their own homemade organic pasta sauce every year (100 bottles ). I particularly love san marzano tomatoes (looks like a long pepper & meaty ) and beef tomatoes -they are huge and sweet.The italians even grow them in big pots like a flower plant & prune the other baby branches so that the energy will be concentrated on producing fruit. I wish they can grow this kind of tomatoes in Bagiou.

    Oct 3, 2009 | 1:16 am

  16. thelma says:

    that sounds like a good idea, bettq. thanks…

    Oct 3, 2009 | 2:41 am

  17. eden says:

    yum! tomatoes with itlog na maalat sounds good for lunch

    Oct 3, 2009 | 5:55 am

  18. Crissy says:

    Its not your fault…I live in the temperate West and I still manage to bungle cherry tomatoes. Tomatoes are so finicky …. you need the right micro climate. Oh well.

    Oct 3, 2009 | 7:47 am

  19. sister says:

    Never buy tomatoes in a grocery or during the winter. They were probably picked a hard green, gassed to turn red, shipped in a refrigerated truck and held in a refrigerated warehouse before they got to the store for a very long shelf life. They are very often mealy tasting from being under ripe or spradically irrigated to begin with. Hence the superb taste of farmers’ market tomatoes in the summer, ripened on the vine, picked within 12 hrs of sale, and never refrigerated except for some ignorant vendors of which there are a few even at Union Square. Prices were very high this summer due to a blight that eradicated half the tomato fields on the eastern seaboard.
    Refrigerated tomatoes have a translucent, watery flesh, and lose most of their flavour. Buy only what you can use in two days and leave them on the counter, away from your gas stove or any other fruit. We eat as many tomatoes as we can during the summer into September, then used canned ones in sauces, and dream about fresh ones for 9 months until July comes around again. Don’t bother either with hydroponic tomatoes in the winter, shipped from halfway around the world, no matter how pretty they look.

    Oct 3, 2009 | 9:58 am

  20. kurzhaar says:

    bettyq, yes I have grown Green Grapes before. This year I found at the local farmers’ market a yellow currant-type tomato that was as sweet as candy. I generally don’t like tomatoes too sweet, I like a mixture of acidities and flavours, but these were small so a nice contrast to the home-grown varieties.

    Some tricks to growing tomatoes–working the soil well before transplanting (tomatoes are “lazy” and will not fight compacted soil), making sure your soil has enough calcium, using synthetic mulch to minimize fungal spores, and keeping the soil just moist but never soggy. And of course sun and warm temperatures. Tomatoes do not like cool weather and will neither grow nor ripen well if night-time temperatures are too low. But I do not find that tomatoes are “finicky”, I have grown tomatoes in three states and a variety of climates and have generally been successful.

    I agree with Sister…I grow my own or occasionally buy from farmers’ markets, dry some or make sauce, but when the season is over, that’s pretty much it for fresh tomatoes. I refuse to buy supermarket tomatoes, they are a waste of money. It makes my home-grown tomatoes all that much more special.

    Oct 3, 2009 | 10:22 am

  21. Lou says:

    Nothing much to add here, except that homegrown and naturally ripened, un-fridged tomatoes are the best! We gave some friends some of our crop and they raved. When they ran out they went to the supermarket and tried to ripen their purchases on the countertop or window sill. STILL no comparison, they said!

    One lesson learned though: Next year we’re planting only RED toms. The yellow heritage ones were sweet, delicious but not tart/tangy enough for our tastes!

    Oct 3, 2009 | 11:21 am

  22. Divina says:

    Please as well just like you said to those producers but if our soil can’t handle this crop then, we can’t have them. Who knows, they might be able to, for as long as they are not irradiated or GM crops. They really look fantastic. Just imagine what you can do with those.

    Oct 3, 2009 | 1:59 pm

  23. Gener says:

    I have observed one thing about tomatoes and i dont know if anyone here knows that! tomatoes grown in the philippines is tastier and more sour compare to the other tomatoes in many countries..This is not a cause of being locally produced, altercation or organically grown but i guess because of the proximity or location or soil of the country…Prove what im saying here, where ever country you are now, bring one tomato in the country and then compare,,,you will be surprised….

    Oct 3, 2009 | 2:16 pm

  24. Marketfan says:

    kurzhaar, can you help us identify the different varieties pictured above? that would increase our tomato knowledge a lot! thanks.

    Oct 3, 2009 | 2:48 pm

  25. cumin says:

    Sorry, Gener, I’m afraid I disagree with you. I have lived in other countries where tomatoes were of much better quality than in the Philippines. My non-Filipino friends working here say the same thing. We actually say it’s difficult to find really good tomatoes in Manila. :-(

    Oct 3, 2009 | 2:50 pm

  26. betty q. says:

    MarketFan: 1st picture: yellow with red blush…Ananas or Arkansas Marvel (heirloom). Beside it…Long Speckled Roman…cherry tomatoes: black cherry, yellow ones…sweetgold?, yellow pear…marbled: Green Zebra and Red Zebra…

    or go to the sites: Seed Saver’s Exchange and Gary Ibsen’s Tomatofest.

    Oct 3, 2009 | 3:55 pm

  27. Gener says:

    Well you are right that tomatoes in the philippines likely on shapes are quite small and ugly and even sometimes ruined with many dull spots caused by disease but the taste is quite sour and better,,ive traveled a lot in many countries very frequently so i know it very well, taste of tomato in the philippines is sour and i can prove that..tomatoes abroad looks beautiful because of its appearance,sizes and texture but most are tasteless!!!

    Oct 3, 2009 | 4:34 pm

  28. Mila says:

    I was mildly shocked to find ruby red cherry tomatoes in a slice of cake in China. I couldn’t really eat it, dipped in whipped cream. I prefer my tomatoes as a savory snack.
    Love the colors of those striated tomotoes, they look more like pears!

    Oct 3, 2009 | 5:49 pm

  29. denise says:

    ooh tomatoes…food porn alright…hehe…when i was a kid and didn’t like the ulam…i would just have tomatoes with salt or patis with my rice :D

    but has anyone else noticed, tomatoes opened by hand tastes different than if you cut it with a knife?

    Oct 3, 2009 | 6:04 pm

  30. thelma says:

    gener, i agree with you. those tomatoes found in the philippines that are big and not uniformly shaped are the best. i even like to eat them manibalang and with salt. dennis, you’re right…tomatoes opened by hand seem to taste better rather than cutting it with a knife. anyway, tomatoes are my favorite and can’t do without….

    Oct 3, 2009 | 9:42 pm

  31. kurzhaar says:

    Marketfan…bettyq beat me to an answer, but my additional comments:

    1st photo:
    Plum type: definitely Speckled Roman = Striped Roman (I grow these often, stripes are almost metallic gold in colour, unmistakable variety)
    Dark tomato: there are many “black” tomatoes, my guess from the circular scarring pattern on the blossom end is that this is Noire de Crimee (Black Krim)

    2nd photo includes green tomatillos (in the husk)

    8th photo large yellow/red bicolors: these look much like the Gold Medal that I grew this year, the fruit relatively symmetric compared to Ananas or Hawaiian Pineapple, but all would be quite dense with irregular cavities when cut open, and have a marbled interior

    Mila, tomatoes are a fruit and some recipes do treat them as such. I have had tomato jam in at least 3 countries, and a green (unripe) tomato pie that was surprisingly fruity in flavour.

    Gener, I have to disagree very strongly with you that “tomatoes abroad…are tasteless”. You will recall that tomatoes are native to the Americas and do quite well on both North and South continents. Many of the most deeply flavoured varieties were developed in Europe and are adapted to shorter/cooler summers. While some varieties are selected for low acidity, there are many more that are quite high acid. Personally, I have been quite happy with my summer harvests (grown over a decade in three states with varying soil/weather conditions). My annual selections are chosen not just for appearance but for flavour, and I like a range from quite acid to very fruity to candy sweet to the very savoury flavour typical of the “black” tomatoes.

    bettyq and others interested in growing tomatoes, also check out:

    Oct 4, 2009 | 4:40 am

  32. Gener says:

    I think i said too far that tomatoes abroad are tasteless! and i may agree with you since its quite impossible for me to taste all tomatoes around the world. let me alter my words little bit since i simply compare what ive tasted and not mentioning all tomatoes worldwide ofcourse..You mentioned about acidity which i cant think but known that main source of being taste like sour! thats it, tomatoes in the philippines are quite stronger in acid content making it much flavourful..there maybe other countries who has thesame characteristics…The bad side of local tomatoes grown in the philippines are the shapes, they are not attractive as those abroad, black spots are obvious except those first harvest and sizes are smaller and most are oval shaped but taste is really strong and admirable….

    Oct 4, 2009 | 2:01 pm

  33. sonia says:

    I love tomatoes, and I am just salivating when I saw the many variants you posted!
    I have a question though, I know people who recommend putting tomatoes inside an improvised foil bag, which functions much like a paper bag but it’s open, and then store them in the refrigerator. Does this somehow affect the quality of the tomato? Does it lessen its mealy-ness from being in the refrigerator?

    Oct 5, 2009 | 1:32 pm

  34. Marketfan says:

    thanks bettyq and kurzhaar, tomato experts really.
    tomatoes are nice to eat raw but cooked ones provide the most lycopene which is believed to prevent many kinds of cancer…lets make them into tomato sauce then..
    maybe cutting tomatos with a knife make the metal react with it so it tastes differently? just like when they say lettuce leaves should be shredded by hand and not sliced by a knife..more expert opinion, please..

    Oct 5, 2009 | 9:59 pm

  35. kurzhaar says:

    Lycopene is oil-soluble and held in little “droplets” inside the tomato cell which is why cooking tomatoes makes the lycopene more bioavailable. You can increase lycopene absorbance also by making sure you eat your tomatoes with some source of fat (olive oil on your salad or in your tomato sauce). To your male readers, lycopene is believed to be beneficial for prostate health.

    I recall reading about why minced garlic or herbs can taste different from the same ingredient pounded in a mortar…it has to do with breaking open cell components that contribute to flavour. Not sure if this applies to tomatoes, I have either eaten them out of hand (like an apple) or else sliced.

    Oct 6, 2009 | 3:06 am

  36. Lex says:

    I love tomatoes. The best way to keep them fresh for days (or even a week) is to wrap them in a paper. Two or three layers of paper is better. put them in a cool dry place. You can do the same with kalamansi.

    Oct 7, 2009 | 5:11 pm

  37. Franzb69 says:

    Growing heirlooms here in pque. Got seeds from seed swapping online.

    Sep 18, 2010 | 1:05 am

  38. ron plummer says:

    will big boy tomatoes grow good in the philippines ?

    Feb 19, 2011 | 4:04 pm


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