Printed with the permission of the Alpine Avalanche
(insert groan and eye-roll here).
All joking aside, I love tomatoes.
Four green tomatoes. I’ve been watching them for what seems to be months… big green tomatoes, hanging from my lone tomato plant, not growing, and certainly not ripening. Just hanging out. Green. Unproductive.
Growing up, my mom seemed to always have at least one big tomato plant in the backyard. From an early age, she instilled in me a love for the juicy, red fruit (it’s not a vegetable) that has only intensified over the years. She’d send me to pick a couple ripe tomatoes, and then make sandwiches with just bread, thickly sliced tomato, salt, pepper and mayonnaise.
Or, she’d cut them into wedges, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and we’d just eat them as a snack. Even now, I love plucking a tomato and eating it while it’s still warm from the sun. It’s funny how something so simple brings back the fondest of childhood memories for me.
Before we moved to West Texas, I could throw some seeds in the garden and have more tomatoes than I could consume, in no time flat. I grew San Marzanos and Romas in pots with basil and oregano plants. Cherry tomatoes had real estate near the jalapeno peppers and cilantro. Heirloom Yellow Pear tomatoes nearly took over a whole bed, limiting the space allotted for my hefty Beefsteak tomatoes.
This was the first of many Yellow Pear Tomatoes. It’s funny how you expect the yellow color to make it taste less like a tomato, but with my eyes closed in a side-by-side taste test (think “Pepsi Challenge”) I couldn’t tell the difference in delectable tomato flavor.
Either fortunately or unfortunately, I’m the only tomato lover in our home, so the majority of tomato consumption fell to my shoulders. My husband doesn’t like them unless they’re cooked, and wastes no time shifting raw tomatoes from his plate to mine whenever we’re served something with tomatoes. No complaints from me.
Back in the olden days, I gathered this amount of tomatoes daily… some were very small, but all were so delicious.
And now, I’ve got these four tomatoes that are taunting me daily by not ripening, no matter what I do.
During Colonial times in America, tomatoes were grown for decoration – absolutely not for eating. It was thought that if you ate a tomato, it was poisonous enough to turn your blood to acid. Tomatoes are a non-toxic member of the Nightshade family, and the plants so closely resemble the deadly Nightshade plants folks stayed away out of fear. They originated in the Andes, in what is now called Peru, where they grew wild. The Aztecs and Incas cultivated them as early as 700 A.D., but it was European explorers who later introduced them to the Americas.
Tomatoes are a good source of Potassium, which can lower high blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease. One cup of fresh tomato is equal to 9% of the daily recommended amount of fiber. They are good source of Vitamin B3. They are a terrific source of lycopene, which is an antioxidant. In case you wondered what an antioxidant is, it travels through your body to neutralize free radicals that damage cells and cause all sort of health troubles.
Only time will tell if my four green tomatoes mature or are destined to be sliced and fried. I will wait patiently, because love is patient and I love tomatoes.
Oh, and in case you didn’t know how to fix a sliced tomato, use tomato paste.
I couldn’t resist another tomato joke 🙂
(Tomato-Bread Salad – this is a favorite recipe and I was able to pick everything from my once-upon-a-time garden for it)
1 loaf crusty Italian bread (or sourdough, or any dense bread you like)
1 whole English cucumber, halved, seeded and sliced
6 whole assorted tomatoes, cut into wedges (I used my Yellow Pear and Red Cherry tomatoes, cut in half)
1/2 whole red onion very thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, seed and chopped
1/4 cup olive oil plus more for drizzling on the bread
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
25 whole basil leaves, Chiffonade (folded together and cut into slivers)
Olive oil, for drizzling
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes, arrange on a baking sheet, and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Place the pan in the oven for 20-25 minutes to slightly crisp (“stale”) the bread without toasting it. Remove it from the oven and allow to cool.
In a large bowl, combine bread, cucumber, tomatoes, and onion. In a small jar, shake together the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper (this is how I mix all of my dressings). Pour over the salad ingredients, toss gently. Add basil and Parmesan and toss again. Cover and allow to sit at room temperature for an hour or two before serving. I also like adding some fresh mozzarella if I have it, because… fresh mozzarella. Yum.
Sprinkle with more salt and pepper and serve.