Produce At Its Peak: Tomatoes

One of my absolute favorite fragrances is the scent of a fresh ripe tomato still on the vine. It’s the vine itself that carries the smell I love, and during the spring, Living Water Gardens’ fresh picked tomatoes arrive with pristine green vines. Living Water Gardens, located in Wells, MN, is a hydroponic growing operation that provides us with tomatoes, basil and English cucumbers every spring, summer, and fall.


Hydroponic growing practices involve growing food in water and nutrients and allow us to have local produce before and after the growing season. Whenever Steve from Living Water Gardens calls and says he has tomatoes ready, I know spring is here–regardless of the weather. While Living Water Gardens’ hydroponic tomatoes are the first local tomatoes of the season, they are certainly not the last. Below are some of the other tomato varieties we will bring in locally as the spring and summer months progress.

Cherry tomatoes—sweet, tangy and very juicy. Cherry tomatoes come in a few different varieties and are great for salads and pasta dishes. Featherstone Farms’ sungold cherry tomatoes are the most flavorful.

Grape tomatoes—very sweet, tend to be smaller in diameter. Perfect for salads and pizza.


Roma tomatoes—flavor can vary, but generally milder and sweet. Good for canning and making sauces or salsa.

Slicer tomatoes—sometimes called beefsteak tomatoes; these are a very versatile tomato with a balanced sweet and tart flavor. They can be used on sandwiches, in salads, sauces, salsa, or sliced and eaten with preferred seasoning.

Heirloom tomatoes—there are hundreds of varieties of heirloom tomatoes that have been saved and planted over the years. Their flavor varies according to variety. You will see 15-20 varieties including a few top sellers such as:

Cherokee Purple –rich and sweet

German Stripe–rich and bright

Brandywine –light and balanced

Most heirlooms are best savored simply, sliced for caprese salad, or on sandwiches, but some are good for sauces and salsa. Talk to our knowledgeable Produce staff for cooking and preparation advice.


Green Tomatoes— firm and tart. Typically used to make fried green tomatoes, green tomatoes are unripe tomatoes that can also be used in salsa.

Tomatillos—tart little green husked tomatoes. These are great roasted on their own or made into salsa.