Last month, Mendo Co-Founders Mario and Ellen celebrated the ten year anniversary of our relationship with Scarborough Farms by driving out to visit the farmers in their fields in Oxnard, CA. We always feature their baby greens in some of our most popular salads, but every year we start planning months in advance to get our hands on their heirloom tomatoes that have been slowly growing and ripening for months under the hot sun and cool breeze, just waiting to be harvested, sliced thick, and nestled into our Summer Heirloom BLT.These juicy, rainbow-colored tomatoes are heirlooms in more ways than one. Scarborough Farms is run by a mother and son named Ann and Jeff Stein, who grow them from original seed stock to ensure a saturated, sun-kissed flavor worthy of passing from one generation to the next. The tomatoes’ journey begins on January 1st each year, when the peak of summer is still half a year away. They carefully plant the heirloom seeds in trays and place the trays in the nursery to germinate. They wait until the first or second week of March (the day after the last frost) to transplant the sprouts into the fields, where they will grow tall, fill out with leaves, and start to flower. At the beginning of summer, these flowers magically become tomatoes in every shape and size imaginable.
Heirloom tomatoes come with names as unique as their shapes, and Jeff Stein is hard pressed to choose just one favorite. The Purple Cherokee can range from light purple to deep red inside and out and has a distinctive smoky-sweet flavor. The Reif Red Heart is huge, heavy, and dense with few seeds. Kellogg’s Breakfast is beautifully sweet with a bright orange hue. Scarborough Farms delivers a mix of all the varieties they grow directly to every Mendocino Farms location each day during the summer season, along with our usual selection of mixed greens, arugula, and spinach. Their produce is too delicate to ship via a produce wholesaler, so they do their distribution themselves. That means they are able to monitor to ensure top quality every step of the way–a true “farm to table” commitment! Ann and Jeff’s passion for their craft is evident in every tomato and leaf of lettuce that passes from their hands to ours, and we’re proud to share it with you. Take a bite!