7 Essential Heirloom Tomato Varieties

Living in Central California, I've enjoyed the unique beauty and intense flavor of heirloom tomatoes for years. Heirloom tomatoes have since permeated the produce department, and now shoppers can find them all over the country during their peak season in late summer. When shopping for heirloom tomatoes, be sure to choose tomatoes that are heavy for their size and store them on the counter at home — not in the refrigerator. Keep in mind that they ripen quickly, so only buy enough to eat within the next few days. And remember, size and shape have no correlation with quality; large or small, they're all delicious!

Click here to see the 7 Essential Heirloom Tomato Varieties (Slideshow)

When I'm not eating them fresh, a few of my favorite recipes starring heirloom tomatoes are:

To learn more about the different heirloom tomato varieties (and the best ways to use them!), click through the slideshow.

James Parker, global associate perishables coordinator for Whole Foods Market