Tomato season! It's here, and after a disappointing crop last year, the market is bursting with tomatoes of every color, shape and size, all bursting with flavor that you simply cannot find the rest of the year. Heirlooms are all over the market right now, but none are as beautiful or distinct as those at Eckerton Hill Farm's stand. Owned and run by Tim and Jill Stark, Eckerton Hill Farm is actually now located on three farms near each other in Lobachsville, Kutztown, and Lenhartsville, PA—all of which are clustered outside of Allentown, PA.
Even among all of the farms selling heirlooms at the Greenmarket, the selection at Eckerton Hill will stop you in your tracks. The table overflows with little cherry heirloom tomatoes in every color you can imagine: red, yellow, orange, purplish-brown, green. There are full size heirlooms as well, and what I'd call XXL size beasts that can weigh in at two pounds. They're big and bulbous, a far cry from the bright red species you find at the supermarket—those may look pristine, but they taste like so much wet tissue paper. In addtion to the tomatoes, Eckerton Hill also sells cucumbers, summer squash, green and purple basil, and the occasional supply of blackberries. Later in August, expect to see lots and lots of chile peppers at Eckerton Hill's stand.
What is Jill Stark's favorite way to prepare her tomatoes? "I hate cooking, so I slice them and eat them, maybe with bread and cheese." This minimal approach is hard to argue with, whether or not you like to cook; when the tomatoes are this good, there's very little you could add to improve on them. Personally, I favor methods that involve little or no heat—gazpacho and raw tomato sauce are my go-tos.
However you prepare them, tomato season is fleeting above all else. I implore you, get out to the market and eat as many tomatoes as you possibly can. Whether you like them big, round and red, little and juicy and yellow, or bright green with wild stripes, the time is now.
Click through the slideshow to see all of the beautiful tomatoes as well as a few other items that Eckerton Hill has on offer right now.
Eckerton Hill Farm is at the Union Square Greenmarket on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, as well as the Andaz Hotel Farmers' Market (not affiliated with the Greenmarket) on Wall Street on Saturdays.
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