Bee staff photo by Lezlie Sterling
Real, ground-grown heirloom tomatoes are a fond memory of hot summer days. Cold from the refrigerator, sliced and splashed with olive oil and dashed with salt and pepper, and blanketed with fresh basil - wow!
Maybe a close second is a six-variety line of organic heirloom tomatoes - chunks of brightly colored, tasty fruit, pulverized and swimming in their own juice. They're from the family-run Balakian Farm in Reedley, in Fresno County.
At the farm's website, www.balakianfarms.com, fourth-generation owner-manager Amber Balakian writes, "I wanted each sauce to embody a distinct flavor, smell and texture that is reminiscent of my family farm. It is a simple way to create fresh, organic, homemade meals."
We sampled 16-ounce Mason jars of Yellow Roman, Pink Oxheart and Green Zebra blended sauces and were very impressed. We used them as pasta sauces and as ingredients on a pizza and in meat-heavy chili, stew and soup. And, yes, we drank them straight from the jars, too.
Our favorite was sweet Yellow Roman, followed by the slightly tart Green Zebra and the complexly flavored Pink Oxhart.
You can order them at the farm's website for $10 a jar, and buy them at the Saturday farmers market at the Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco. Or you can order them at a very cool site, www.americasfarmstand.com (click on "Gifts").
America's Farmstand is an online retailer that has gathered a consortium of family farms that offer "organic and all-natural artisanal foods." There, you'll find everything from maple syrup and pickles to nuts and cheeses, along with a line of gluten-free items.