Let’s be honest. Beauty cannot compensate for a lack of flavor. The beauty of produce and, in the bigger picture, of a finished plate is at least as important to me as it is the next guy.
Elated to see them at market, I bought three such ripe beauties at Portland Farmers Market last Sat and could think of nothing but Caprese for lunch and a weekday dinner or two.
Let us also be fair. There are some things the Midwest does better than any other geographical location. Tomatoes, and specifically heirloom tomatoes, is one such category. There is a depth of flavor that I find to be unmatched in tomatoes from California, Florida and, yes, Oregon.
If you’re really aggressive in planting, you can have a vine-ripened tomato in the Midwest by the 4th of Jul. ‘Tis true. Really aggressive means starting seeds in a cold frame in Feb. And, you can continue to enjoy them well into the fall. This appears not to be true in Portland. These were not great tomatoes, and certainly not up to a Midwest summer standard. Odd that in an 11-month growing season, true vine-ripened tomatoes are a roll of the dice.
Remember, a little bit of something wonderful is better than a whole lot of nothing special. Don’t be shy about asking questions about that pretty face on your produce stand.