Set the Table With. . . Rose de Berne Tomatoes
By: Kate Spring
Rose de Berne might be the perfect tomato.
This Swiss heirloom is delicious sliced on a sandwich, in a salad, cooked in a soup, added into casseroles, canned, or roasted. Among seed growers and farmers Rose de Berne is often touted as the one tomato to grow, if you have to choose just one.
Brian Stroffolino of Hartland, Vermont, agrees with the conventional wisdom. “[Rose de Berne is] so superior to the majority of the varieties,” he explains, “The flavor profile is just amazing, and it's relatively disease resistant. It doesn't really crack, and it has that beautiful pinkish tone to it. It's an all around—we’ll eat it fresh as a slicer, and we'll can it. It's just a great tomato.”
The Rose de Berne is a bestseller at Solstice Seeds, where Stroffolino recently took the helm from its founder Sylvia Davatz.
Founded in 2009, Solstice Seeds is unusual among seed companies today. While most companies are resellers, buying from large seed growers and repackaging the seed, 100% of Solstice Seeds are grown in Hartland. They are interested in preservation, not breeding, and offer entirely open-pollinated varieties, with a clear list of criteria to guide their selections. In fact, their interest lies in preservation of not only seeds, but also of local capacity to produce seeds. As Davatz said in a 2014 Local Banquet interview, “. . .the urgency to save seeds in home gardens, to decentralize our food supply, has become dramatic.”
Stroffolino’s own passion for seeds grew during the four years he ran a CSA with his wife, Melissa, on land leased from Davatz. He came to see seed saving as a key part of sustainability. In 2017, as Davatz prepared to close her seed business to focus on other projects, Stroffolino approached her with a desire to take over the catalog. He now runs the business, with Davatz on the adjacent property and still heavily involved in seed saving.
“[Sylvia’s] certainly been a mentor and really steered me towards the beauty and responsibility of maintaining varieties. . . some of which are incredibly rare, [ones] that you can't get commercially,” Stroffolino says.
The work of places like Solstice Seeds helps maintain the genetic diversity of crops in a time when that variety has dwindled. Stroffolino takes this mission to heart, it’s why he traded vegetable production for seed production. “It's an incredible feeling to be preserving those [varieties] and keeping those alive—a lot of which have superior flavor and storage quality, and a beauty to them more than conventional varieties,” he says.
Plus, he gets to supply us with a perfect tomato.
Whether you’re growing your own, or buying them from market, look for Rose de Berne to add to your garden and kitchen. While Solstice Seeds focuses on preserving the seeds, you can preserve the harvest by slow-roasting and freezing fresh Rose de Berne tomatoes (recipe below).
Learn more about Solstice Seeds and view their full catalog at solsticeseeds.com.
Roasted Rose de Berne Tomatoes
Garlic - ½ head to 1 head per baking sheet
Olive Oil for drizzling (about ¼ C per baking sheet)
Fresh herbs: thyme, oregano, rosemary, and basil all work well
Optional: balsamic vinegar, sliced onion, fresh ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 325º. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (this step is important! Otherwise, you’ll end up with a very hard-to-clean baking sheet).
Wash and core tomatoes, then slice them into halves or quarters lengthwise and place on the baking sheet cut-side up.
Peel and crush the garlic, and add to the tomatoes. Scatter chopped herbs of choice, and onion slices if you’re using them, on top. Drizzle generously with olive oil. Drizzle balsamic vinegar (if using) on top, and sprinkle with salt and fresh ground pepper.
Roast for 1 hour, or until the tomatoes are soft and shriveled.
From there, you can use the tomatoes immediately in a sauce, soup, or stew. Use as-is, puree into a sauce, or put through a food mill to remove seeds and skins-- or preserve them in the freezer.
To freeze: let roasted tomatoes cool completely. Once cooled, transfer tomatoes into a freezer bag or freezer-safe container, label, and freeze. Eat them up all winter.