Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm never uses the term “heirloom” when referring to his vegetables. “That’s crap”, he says. He believes that one should be constantly reselecting for varieties that do best in the given micro-climate. Which is exactly what he does at Ayers Creek with the various kinds of corn, legumes, grain and vegetables he grows. But it seems his pride and joy is his Astiana tomato.
A number of years ago Anthony was touring around, eating and drinking his way through the Piedmont region of Italy with his wife Carol and some friends. They went to a market in Asti to collect ingredients for dinner, including some intriguing looking green culinary tomatoes with which they made a pasta sauce. They were so impressed with the sauce, Carol went digging through the compost after dinner to collect 15 seeds to bring back to the United States.
They have been propagating those same seeds for their beloved “Astiana” tomatoes at Ayers Creek Farm ever since. (The name was adopted in the tradition of naming varieties based on their place of origin). The tomato is representative of a cooking tomato landrace from the Po River Valley. A landrace is a population of fruits, vegetables or livestock that is shaped by the environment and culture of the region to which it belongs. Representative of the race will vary from village to village, but they have similar qualities.
The tomato itself is large, green-shouldered and pear-shaped, which causes it to ripen from the bottom to the top. They are selected for the quality of their flavor and texture upon cooking and are high in acidity and drier than most tomatoes. The moisture content lends itself to being a good freezing tomato and also great for sauces, as you don’t have to over-cook it to achieve a more reduced sauce. The tomato isn’t great as a slicing tomato, so Anthony also grows some Striped German tomatoes for his salads.
Ayers Creek Farm uses the facilities at Sweet Creek Foods in Elmira to make Astiana pasta sauce. The sauce is sold in PastaWorks in Portland, some other retail locations and is also included in gift baskets available around the holidays.
Anthony also sells the tomatoes at his Hillsboro Farmers Market stand, while they last.
Sounds like you should probably try to track some down.