A Love Letter to Tomatoes

The magic of Early Girl tomatoes.

Boxes of early girl tomatoes

As these last few weeks of summer wind us slowly towards fall, something magical happens to the produce in the Markets. Tomatoes, especially, seem to get a little extra love from Mother Nature during this time of year. We sat down with Simon Richard, Bi-Rite’s produce buyer, to learn more about what makes this time of year so special, and get his advice on how best to soak up every last Early Girl before the season turns.

Why are late season tomatoes so special?

Thanks to warm California days and cool nights, local farms are producing fruit that are high in sugar content and full of flavor. Early Girl varieties are especially peaking in flavor. Since they’re dry farmed they’re not irrigated, which puts stress on the plant, forcing it to bring up water from deep in the root system. This creates the perfect formula for a denser, sweeter tomato.

Where does Bi-Rite source its tomatoes from?

We source our tomatoes from a number of California farms across different regions. Doing this allows us to extend the season of some crops like tomatoes, since the growing season can be longer in different regions. Right now we’re sourcing from Two Dog Farm, Happy Boy Farms, Live Earth Farm and Mariquita Farm, all in the Watsonville area. We’re also bringing in tomatoes from Bi-Rite Farm up in Sonoma.

How important are these farm-direct relationships for ensuring a steady supply of delicious fruit?

I would say it’s critical. We approach relationship building really carefully and try to make sure we’re able to support as many different farms as possible. These relationships are also key for making sure we’re able to offer guests a longer season of availability on crops like tomatoes. As we head into late September, most grocery stores are only able to source fruit from Mexico; our relationships make it possible for us to extend the local season much longer.

What’s the best way to enjoy these special tomatoes? Is there a best way? 

There isn’t necessarily a ‘best’ way to eat a tomato. I’m putting them in all my salads at home, and you can never go wrong with some fresh mozzarella on the side. That said, this is a great time of year to try your hand at canning tomatoes. There’s nothing like opening a can of local Early Girls come January.

Have questions about about late tomato season? Send us a DM on Instagram at @biritesf.

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