Growing up, I thought all tomatoes were red.
Then, slowly, it came to my attention that there were yellow tomatoes, too.
Much more recently, with the Heirloom Revolution, we were pleased to discover that tomatoes come in purple, green, shades of pink, and even in a kind of pale off-white.
These heirloom varieties are said to be somewhat less disease resistant, and they may not travel as well as some red tomatoes. As a result of such practical concerns and market pressures, the red tomato became THE tomato on most sandwiches and salads.
In my Oak Park garden, I have a dozen tomato plants, most of them heirloom varieties: Black Krim, Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, Green Zebra and others.
This year, however, I also planted four traditional red tomato plants because I’ve realized that I like the red ones best.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the variation provided by the laid back sweetness of the Black Krim and slightly tart Green Zebra, but overall, to me, the red tomato has the best balance of sweet and tart, meatiness and juiciness, firmness and tenderness, and it looks great, brilliantly colored and beautifully lush.
I plan to keep planting tomatoes of all colors, but I’ve come to realize, after years of eating probably several thousand of all colors, that red is really my favorite, not only because it tastes very good but because it looks very good.
I’m not above admitting that, perhaps, my preference for red tomatoes is based a lifetime of having red ones presented as the pinnacle of tomato goodness. That may be, and I wouldn’t claim that the red tomato is the universal paradigm of tomatic perfection, but I find that when I’m selecting love apples for lunch, more often than not, it’s the red ones I reach for.