Evidently in colonial times in America, this Philadelphia heirlom variety did exactly that. It seemed odd and intriguing to me when I first read about the Red Fig tomato being used as fig susbsitute in early America. When I read about that use, of course I had to experience this piece of hertigae and history for myself. I was born in Philadelphia, and my family has lived in the city for 100 years. I’m also a history buff and sucker for a good story like this. I love fresh figs, and fresh tomatoes, but I never thought about substituting a tomato for a fig. As far as the dried versions of either, I can do without them.
So I ordered the seeds, and got a new perspective on the use of a tomato. The seeds came from tomatofest.com. On the Red Fig description page I found instructions on how to prepare tomato figs. Basically, you boil some water, place the tomatoes in the hot water so you can peel them. Once peeled, you place them in a jar with an equal amount of sugar and let them sit for a couple days. Everyday you pour off the syrup and add more sugar. Once that is complete, the colonial folks dried them in the sun for a few days on screens. I used my dehydrator. Once they are dried, in colonial times they covered them with powdered sugar and packed them away. I didn’t coat my version in powdered sugar. It’s too sweet and too processed for me. I also used light brown sugar to cure the tomatoes.
I did this for two days. The result is I have some tasty little nuggets that to me taste more bbq than a fig. I have some tomato simple syrup that will be used in a cocktail or a drizzle on some buttermilk ice cream the next time I make it. I only did a small batch since I wasn’t quite sure how these would turn out. I would like to try them in some baking. Perhaps biscuits or breads with herbs and cheese. Thanks to a wicked hail storm the bulk of my harvest got knocked off the vine or else I would make more.
The plants produce an abundant amount of pear shaped tomatoes. The foliage is delicate, and on the dainty side. The plants remind me of botanical drawings. The fruit grows in clusters, and it falls ont he vine real easy. You have to be careful while picking the ripe ones.
They also dry in the oven well. I still don’t get the fig substitution but it doesn’t really matter since the odd and intriguing concept inspired me to try this tomato. I can take it from here. As I learned in my art history courses, in order to create new art you have to study and understand the past. So while I won’t be substituting these tasty morsels for figs anytime soon, I have a new ingredient and flavor in my culinary and gardening pallet. And in the end, that’s just fine by me.