Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Fresh Tomatoes

I gave up on storebought tomatoes years ago - after tasting the genuine commodity fresh from the garden, those gassed red globes from the supermarket seemed pointless as well as tasteless. (A tiny bit of locavorism, before I knew such a thing existed.) So the only time we eat fresh tomatoes is when they ARE fresh: from ours or someone else's garden.

With what excitement we plant them out every May, trying to ignore the "69 Days to Harvest" on the tag or seed packet, hoping against hope that by some miracle it might happen sooner. With what breathless anticipation we watch the blossoms come out, the baby fruit develop and grow. The day the first tomato blushes is a red-letter day in every sense, and the countdown begins in earnest from there.

The tomato tide begins with a trickle: where we live, the small varieties ripen in late July (although this year I picked my first yellow grape tomatoes on the 14th). Like jewels, they sparkle from salads and omelettes. Soon there are more than we can keep up with and I start throwing them into a freezer bag for mid-winter stews and soups.

But cherry and grape tomatoes are merely the first hint of the bounty to come. The real culinary fun starts when the bigger varieties come on. Then we can enjoy that simplest and best of summer salads: tomatoes with fresh basil, olive oil, salt and pepper. Not to mention tomato-zucchini gratin with fresh thyme and Parmesan cheese. Pasta with fresh tomato sauce, chunky and textured. Fresh tomato pizza. Grilled ham-and-muenster-and-tomato sandwiches. And my all-time favourite omelette filling: tomatoes, goat cheese and fresh basil - it's like having summer for breakfast.

The sweetness of the tomato harvest is, like most of life's pleasures, tinged with sorrow. Spring is gone, and summer will soon pass. We're on the downhill slide to autumn and winter, and tomatoes, at their peak, represent the last flare of the garden's flame before it dies out in frost. All the warmth and sunshine of the fertile year seem to be distilled in their brightness.

But for now, the harvest is just beginning. We picked our first full-size tomato tonight and ate it with sliced cucumber and homemade falafel. It was delicious.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


  1. That last tomatoe is a beauty. I don't have any yet, I've still got flowers on my tomato plants so we're still waiting...

  2. I wish that we had gotten a garden started this year. Yours is wonderful-- love the pics of these gorgeous veggies!

  3. You are SO, SO correct in the difference in flavor between home-grown and store-bought. Seem like they aren't even the same variety.

    Love that line... summer for breakfast. I've had quite a few already this year, but they're all very small. I think I'm finally beginning to realize the altitude must affect them. I've done everything I can, and they keep turning bright red at about marble size. My Romas are doing the best this year. I've had almost a dozen! Sliced one up the night before last and tossed it on top of my spaghetti. Thankfully, I get to eat them all because my better half no like. :)

  4. I have lots of tiny tomatoes on my vines and even more flowers, which I like to think of as tomatoes in waiting. I doubt I'll get to eat one before the end of August.

  5. They look lovely - ours are a bit slow to ripen this year because of the lack of sun. You can get Ukrainian varieties which are geared up to a very short growing season.

    Pomona x


I love comments! Speak on....