Summer is that special time of year when produce at the farmers market is at its peak — and, let’s be honest, we want to buy everything in sight. One particular seasonal show-stopper is the heirloom tomato — this beautiful, multicolored, striped piece of produce comes in a multitude of varieties, colors, and, yes, shapes. Interestingly enough, even though tomatoes are technically fruits, the Supreme Court ruled that they were vegetables in order to tax them (we’re serious).

Ranging from topaz yellow to emerald green to amethyst purple, you’d be forgiven for thinking they were actual gems. But what actually puts this ingredient in a category generally reserved for family treasures? The seeds are passed down from generation to generation, never hybridized, and in this way they’re much like a family heirloom that’s passed down through multiple generations.

Their nutritional content also stands out — one heirloom tomato contains around 20% of your daily necessary amount of Vitamin A, which is important for vision, and 40% of your daily Vitamin C, boosting immunity. These little guys pack a big nutritional punch. Bonus: they’re also loaded with lycopene, which helps fight against cancer. Not bad for a single tomato.

In addition to being full of nutrients, heirloom tomatoes are vine-ripened. Most tomatoes at the supermarket, however, are not vine-ripened — they’re picked when they’re green and later exposed to ethylene gas to make them turn that familiar shade of red. Convinced yet that heirlooms are the superior summer choice? Below we’ve included a recipe that’ll help to complete a perfect summer day.

Heirloom Tomato Avocado Toast

1 slice whole grain bread, toasted

1/2 an avocado, sliced

1 heirloom tomato, whichever variety you prefer, sliced

Maldon Salt

Olive oil

Balsamic Vinegar
Toast the bread and place 1/2 of a sliced and well-ripened avocado on top. Place about two slices, or more depending on the size, of the heirloom tomato on top and drizzle with olive oil. Finally, drizzle a small amount of balsamic vinegar on top — aged is preferable. Finish it off with a sprinkle of maldon salt and enjoy!

Have any pictures of a beautiful heirloom tomato dish? Tag them with #splendidself and we’ll share them on our Instagram.


Emily Blincoe. Instagram.


Ira Flatow, The Unsavory Story of Industrially-Grown Tomatoes. NPR.

Alex Folkl, Nutritional Value of Heirloom Tomatoes. LIVESTRONG.

Rebecca Rupp, Is a Tomato a Fruit? It Depends on How You Slice It. National Geographic.

Vitamin A. National Institutes of Health.

Vitamin C. National Institutes of Health.

How Lycopene Helps Protect Against Cancer. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.