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Why Heirloom Tomatoes Have Scars, and Ratatouille Recipe

We lucked into a wonderful gift this week – a beautiful harvest of heirloom tomatoes from one of our residential clients. Turns out, she doesn’t like heirloom tomatoes. Nothing to do with their flavor, but everything to do with their perceived imperfections.

Causes of Scarring

  • Also called catfacing, scarring is common in heirloom tomatoes because, much like multi- colored and sized eggs, they haven’t been bred for commercial perfection
  • Exposure to cool temperatures during pollination is the most common cause of heirloom tomato scarring
  • Scarring can also be caused by insect damage, excessive soil nitrogen, exposure to the pesticide 2,4-D, and erratic soil moisture
  • ‘Homestead’ and ‘Monte Carlo’ varieties are more resistant to scarring

Despite learning from her farmer Ally that this scarring is perfectly normal, she still wanted to send her heirloom tomatoes packing. What is her loss, is definitely our gain!


For those who are squeamish about vegetable blemishes, the Crock Pot is your new best friend. Following are TWO recipes we love to throw scarred-up heirloom tomatoes into, to the delight of our farm team when they return to the office from the field.

Ratatouille Recipe


1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup small diced yellow onion
3 cloves minced garlic
2 cups medium diced eggplant, with skin
5 sprigs fresh winter thyme
1 diced green bell pepper
1 diced red bell pepper
2 cups any combo of diced zucchini squash, yellow squash,  and/or gourds
1 1/2 cups chopped heirloom tomatoes
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on high for 2+ hours, stirring occasionally. This is a GREAT “kitchen sink” recipe. In other words, a recipe that uses up a variety of vegetables that are often in abundance (or overabundance) this time of year, that you may not know what to do with or have the time prepare and cook. Add in just about anything else you like that’s in abundance, such as collards or kale. Make a huge pot of it and freeze some (or have a harvest party!).

This October, guest chef Meg Tallon leads the Using and Preserving Your Harvest workshop, to share simple techniques for using and preserving the abundant fall harvest so that nothing you’ve worked hard to grow goes to waste. Quick pickling, dehydrating, freezing… Build up your repertoire of kitchen skills to ensure you have the taste of the growing season at your fingertips all winter long! We recommend you reserve your seat, 617-776-1400, as this is a popular workshop.


Receive a discount for bundling 2 or more in our fall workshop series (including Season Extension and Chicken-Keeping 101).


Bonus Recipe: Tomato and Quinoa Hearty Stew

Step 1 Ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil
10 diced heirloom tomatoes
1 diced sweet yellow onion
3 cloves minced garlic
2 tablespoons paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine the above ingredients in a slow cooker and set on high.

Step 2 Ingredient

1 habanero pepper, sliced in half and de-seeded

Place the habanero on top of the other ingredients. Cook for 2 hours. Remove the cooked habanero from the slow cooker.

Step 3 Ingredients

1 cup quinoa
3/4 cup water

Add quinoa and water to the slow cooker. Reduce heat to low. Cook 1 hour. Optional: 1 tablespoon of honey.

Prefer eating your heirloom tomatoes fresh and raw, not cooked, but still creeped out by the scars? When in doubt, CUT them out, never throw them out! There’s no reason not to enjoy them however you prefer them.

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