I love everything about summer, except the extreme heat. But said heat does help develop some amazing produce. I look forward to the early snap and snow peas, first lettuces, and all the other firsts that come up, but I’m always most excited for something that will still be months away. Fresh tomatoes. I mean, there is nothing like vine ripe tomatoes, freshly plucked from your garden and eaten right away. Maybe it’s their bright cheery red hue, but more likely, it’s the delightful scent and flavor they add to so many dishes.
We plant several tomato varieties. As a former culinary professional, I am a bit of a snob about my tomatoes. Certain tomato varieties are perfect for sauces, others for slicing on sandwiches or with a bit of olive oil and salt. All of them end up in a long list of salad recipes, one of the best being tabbouleh. This dish of cucumber, onion, garlic, lemon, herbs, olive oil and tomatoes is the freshest taste of the season.
This year we have an Early Girl, an Italian heirloom, Mortgage Lifter, and several types of plum tomatoes, most notably Roma. Plum tomatoes are something I can’t live without, due to their versatility. We even use them on sandwiches occasionally. They simply make the best sauce, hands down. With less seed and more flesh, they are plump but full of flavor. We try to stick with heirloom types, which are often hardier and tastier than commercial seed varieties. The resulting fresh tomatoes usually take less babying than commercial plants.
One of the best things to pair with tomatoes is basil. We also grow several cultivars of basil, including Mammoth, Genovese, Lettuce, Thai, lemon, and purple. I make pesto and freeze it in ice cube trays for later use. But during the fresh season, we use it in everything we can. Simple sliced tomato with a drizzle of olive oil, fresh cracked pepper and salt, and a bit of Balsamic vinegar, topped with fine shavings of basil is out of this world. Big fat slices of tomatoes on a piece of sourdough toast with leaves of basil is an excellent snack. Our tomatoes even become a quick soup, sometimes with a little cream swirled in and topped with herbs. And don’t forget about BLTs. I know, bacon isn’t good for you, but it is delicious with the sweetness of tomatoes. Such a summer treat.
Another favorite is Bruschetta, a classic Italian appetizer. It is chopped vine ripe tomatoes, basil, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper, and basil. You can add other herbs such as oregano, but I find it too overpowering. I like the simplicity of the tomato and basil pairing. Some cooks add sweet peppers, onion, or even grated cheese to the dish. Toast or grill a sliced baguette with a bit of olive oil and when done, rub a fresh garlic clove over the slices. Top with your Bruschetta mix. Open a nice bottle of red, put your feet up and enjoy the fruits of your work in the garden.
Since you’ve worked so hard in the garden this summer we want to show off the fruits (and veggies) of your labor! We invite you to join the Gardening Know How Virtual Harvest Show by submitting photos of your harvest!