Hampshire College Farm Veggie CSA members have access to our pick-your-own crops (heirloom tomatoes, hot peppers, fresh flowers, green beans, edamame, and a variety of herbs such as basil, dill, and cilantro) as soon as they are ready. See below for our guides to heirloom tomatoes and hot peppers.
Tomato Picking Guide
Heirloom tomatoes are tried-and-true varieties that have been around for at least fifty years. They are rarely sold in grocery stores because they do not suit commercial production requirements, but are usually much tastier and more varied than what you can find on a supermarket shelf.
Our heirloom varieties come in many different shapes, sizes, and colors. Generally speaking, ripe tomatoes will look full and heavy, will be pliant to the touch, and should come off of the stem without much effort. Some varieties are best when they have what are known as "green shoulders", so don't worry about a bit of greenness if the tomato seems otherwise ripe.
You will probably come across some tomatoes that look different from those in the rest of the row. Because we save our own seeds, this is due mostly to planting or seed saving error. See what you can find!
- Bisignano: Small, very round, and pinkish-red when ripe. A solid beefsteak variety that makes a great slicer or sandwich tomato.
- Black Cherry: Two-bite cherries with a dusky color and complex flavor. Don't be afraid of the green shoulders; they can be the best part.
- Black from Tula: Don't be put off by these small, strange-looking tomatoes, mottled with shades of red, brown, and green. They are very tasty, with a rich, full flavor.
- Black Krim: Ripe when red-brown, this tomato is rich and salty.
- Brandywine: These large, reddish-pink beefsteaks are a tried-and-true favorite among tomato lovers. They have tender juicy flesh and a rich, spicy flavor.
- Cherokee Purple: Delicious, medium-large, and rounded. Green around the top, fading down into shades of brownish-red when ripe.
- Eva Purple Ball: Uniformly pinkish-red when ripe. Mild flavor.
- Garden Peach: Beautiful little tomatoes with fuzzy skins and a rosy yellow hue. Sweet, mild, and delicate.
- Green Zebra: Some of our most striking tomatoes, these are yellow with deep green stripes when ripe. Sweet, zingy flavor, small enough to eat in just 2 or 3 bites.
- Hawaiian Pineapple: Dense, enormous fruit resembling a pineapple when sliced open, with faint streaks of red radiating from the middle. From the outside, looks anywhere from yellow with an orange bottom to orange with a red bottom. Has a delicious, fruity flavor.
- The Hillbilly: A rangy plant with small fruits somewhere between a plum tomato and a grape tomato; nice flavor.
- Indian Moon: Lovely oblong tomatoes, bright yellowish-orange when ripe. Mild and flavorful, perfect for adding some color and sweet, subtle taste to a meal.
- Little Pink Plum: Cherry tomato with a beautiful pinkish color and a sweet, delicate flavor. Small and oblong in shape, perfect as an addition to a salad or as a tasty snack.
- Livingston Beauty: Pinkish-red with green shoulders; pretty, sweet, and good.
- Maule's Success: Orangish-red and medium sized, taste like your standard garden tomato; good for canning.
- Milka's Gelbe: Nice large, round tomato, yellow with interesting flavors. Nancy's favorite.
- Mortgage Lifter: Very large, often misshapen, pinkish-red with green shoulders when ripe. Flavor is sweet and good.
- Mule Team: Beautiful smallish red tomato.
- NoHo Paste: A local paste tomato with a long tapered shape and meaty flesh.
- Orange Banana: A beautiful orange-colored paste tomato. Excellent for sauces or drying.
- Persimmon: A wonderful orange slicing variety.
- Paul Robeson: Named for the famous singer, orator, and crusader for racial equality and social justice, this tomato is one of the best. These maroon-brick
fruits with green shoulders have a distinctive sweet, smoky taste. One bite will have you singing in the tomato patch.
- Purple Perfect: Blemish-free, medium-sized, pinkish-red, and delicious.
- Rose D'berne: Oblong, orange-red, pretty tomato.
- Smilyan Pink: From the mountain village of Smilyan in Bulgaria, this breed is large, pink, sweet, and acidic. Good slicing tomato.
- Striped German: A bi-colored fruit of red and yellow. Looks beautiful sliced. Complex, fruity flavor and smooth texture.
- Thessaloniki: Baseball-sized, mild-tasting red fruits are the hallmark of this variety developed in Greece.
- Tomatillo: This tomato relative, also known as husk tomato or Mexican ground cherry, comes in a papery husk that splits when ripe. The flavor ranges from sour to sweet, depending on ripeness. Tomatillos are the key ingredient in salsa verde.
- Trucker's Favorite: Mid-sized, pinky-red, sometimes with green shoulders. A flavorful tomato with a nice bite.
- Watermelon Beefsteak: Very large oblong beefsteak tomato with pink skin, yellow shoulders, and darker flesh.
Hot Pepper Picking Guide
Generally speaking, peppers can be harvested at any stage of ripeness, as long as the fruits feel firm and have a glossy sheen. Hot peppers generally get hotter (and change colors, usually from green to orange or red) the riper they get. Additionally, peppers tend to get spicier in hot, dry conditions; a cool, wet season will make for milder peppers.
At home, we encourage you to wear gloves when slicing your peppers, and avoid rubbing your eyes, mucus membranes, or other sensitive areas. If you find that a pepper is too hot for your tastes, capsaicin (the chemical that makes peppers hot) can be dissolved in oils (such as vegetable or olive oil), dairy products, soap, or alcohol. (Unfortunately water will not help, as capsaicin, like oil, is hydrophobic.) Be careful, have fun, and enjoy your taste tests!
- Czech Black: An heirloom from the Czech Republic, this pepper has fruits so striking that sometimes they are just worth looking at. Black when immature, the 2” long conical peppers ripen to a lustrous dark-red garnet color. Mild, juicy, thick-walled flesh runs with a cherry-red juice when cut. The heat, which is a bit milder than a jalapeño, is in the ribs and seeds. Can be candied like a citrus peel for a spicy holiday treat. Great eating at any stage.
- Jalapeño: One of the most familiar of hot peppers, mature jalapeño fruits are 2"–4” long and hang down with a round, firm, smooth flesh. Peppers can have a range of pungency from moderate to high heat, depending on the pepper. Commonly picked and consumed while still green, if allowed to fully ripen they will turn red, orange, or yellow. Smoked and dried red jalapeños are known as chipotles. Other common uses include being stuffed with meat or cheese (jalapeño “poppers”), made into jelly, served with mixed drinks, added to salsas, or included in Vietnamese dishes such as pho and bánh mì.
- Hungarian Hot Wax: Yellow hot peppers with smooth, waxy fruits tapering to a point. Easy to stuff and to peel after roasting; thick-fleshed for frying. The sunset-ripening peppers change from yellow to orange to red, and make very pretty pickled peppers. Don’t be fooled; these appear similar to heatless banana peppers, but are actually slightly hotter than jalapeños. Often sliced in rings and used for canning or pickling, Hungarian hot wax peppers are also good in salsas or marinades.
- Paper Lantern: Elongated and wrinkled, this habañero-type pepper has red lantern-shaped fruits that are 3"-4" long. Harvest green for milder spice, or when ripe at orange to red. Caution: VERY HOT! You may wish to use gloves when preparing, and avoid touching your eyes, mucous membranes, or other sensitive areas. Often added whole to curries or soups, or cooked down for hot sauce. Great for seasonings, salsa, or roasting, their thin walls also make them ideal for drying.
- Poblano: Originating from Puebla, Mexico, this pepper has large, dark fruits with sweet, thick flesh. Fruits range from mild to moderately hot and are typically two-lobed, which makes them easy to stuff and cook in their signature dish, chile rellenos. These peppers store well; when dried they are called chiles anchos (wide chilies). Poblanos are also a key ingredient in traditional mole sauce.
- Shishito: Japanese pepper for cooking or salads. Heavily wrinkled fruits are thin walled, usually mild (no heat) when green and slightly sweet when red. Popular in Japan where the thin walls make them particularly suitable for tempura. Also very good in stir fries or sautés or eaten alone with oil, salt, and pepper. In Asia, fruits are often cooked green, but they also may be used red. Thinly sliced, the red fruits are excellent in salads and coleslaw. Note: Proceed with slight caution, as one out of ten peppers is hot!