"Only two things that money can't buy and that's true love and homegrown tomatoes."
--Guy Clark, "Home Grown Tomatoes"
After last summer's squash fiasco, this year I decided to concentrate on growing tomatoes, which are more nutritious, manageable, versatile, and easier to give away.
According to the Encyclopedia of Food and Culture (available online from the Gale Virtual Reference Library to DPL cardholders), pre-Columbian Aztecs were the first to eat tomatoes, which they made into a sauce with chili peppers and ground squash seeds. After the Spanish Conquest, vinegar was added, resulting in an early salsa. Meanwhile in Europe, Italians were frying them in olive oil seasoned with salt and pepper, and within 100 years tomatoes were a staple in southern Italian cooking. The first known American tomato recipe, "To Keep Tomatoos for Winter Use," appeared in Harriott Pinckney Horry's cookery manuscript, dated 1770:
"Take ripe Tomatas, peel them, and cut them
in four and put them into a stew pan, strew
over them a great quantity of Pepper and
Salt; cover it up close and let it stand an Hour,
then put it on the fire and let it stew quick
till the liquor is intirely boild away; then
take them up and put into pint Potts, and
when cold pour melted butter over them
about an inch thick. They comonly take
a whole day to stew. Each pot will make
N.B. if you do them before the month
of October they will not keep."
Centuries later, fresh tomatoes are still hand-picked, mostly in California, which produces 80% of the U.S.'s production. This year it looks like there are enough green tomatoes in my neighborhood to supply the other 20%, assuming that there's enough time left for them to turn red.
Merrill Kingsbury, a Master Gardener Program Assistant with the CSU Extension, explains: "You are not alone! I have more green tomatoes than I can count and if they all turn red at once, I am going to be making salsa and tomato sauce for days! We have received many calls and emails here at our Extension office from gardeners wondering why their tomatoes are still green. We did have a late start to the spring season with snow on Mother’s Day, followed by cool, rainy weather. Plus, with the hail storms that we had in late May/early June, many people had to wait for their tomato plants to recover or plant new ones. We still have more weeks of good growing weather ahead of us before the first killing frost, so we are telling people to be patient, although it is hard!!"
What's the best use of a homegrown tomato? Given the co-dependent relationship between bacon, lettuce and tomato, many would say the BLT (see video below for how to make this classic).
Note to vegetarians: The best fake bacon is Lightlife Smart Bacon, IMHO.
The library also has some great books for your tomato harvest:
Sun-Dried Tomatoes by Andrea Chesman (1997)
The Heirloom Tomato Cookbook by Mimi Luebbermann (2006)
Salse di Pomodoro: Making the Great Tomato Sauces of Italy by Julia Della Croce (1996)
Cucina Amore: Shrimp in the Pot & Baked Tomatoes (DVD) by Nick Stellino (2005)
Cucina amore: Sicilian Tomato Sauce & Tuna Steaks (DVD) by Nick Stellino (2005)
Tomate (Jitomate) by Andrés Olivos Lombana (Spanish language, 1999)
When I was a kid, my favorite sandwiches were a plain ketchup sandwich and a tomato sandwich with big slices of tomato, mayo and pepper. Love tomatoes!! That BLT video makes me want to stop everything and get straight to the grocery store right now! Super delicious!
It's so interesting to see that so many people are wondering about their green tomatoes and that weather phenomena in the spring can account for that.
Thank you for your interest, Frank. But did you know that ketchup was originally made using all the leftovers from the canning process? People liked the color so much that it had to be sold in a clear container.
Thank you for this informative slice of life. I was worried about my crop. It's good to know that the green tomatoes are going to ketchup.
Merrill Kingsbury has answered a number of questions for me over the years. CSU Extension is such an amazing service. Also, good to know I'm not alone in my bounty of green tomatoes!
Thanks for the great blog, Lisa--I'm drooling already, anticipating chomping on some juicy, red ripe tomatoes--YUM! indeed, one of my very favorite fruit/veggies--right up there with those delicious Colorado peaches. Isn't late summer/early autumn the best season to enjoy our gardens' bounty?!
Thanks, Leigh Ann. The tomatoes are definitely late to ripen up this year - we just need a few more weeks of warm temperatures!
I've had lots of cherries this season, but only a few larger tomatoes so far, and all of them were Early Girls on the smallish side. At least I have a lot of fruit on the vine, unlike last year's horrible crop.
One of my faves is a salmon BLT. Add grilled salmon, basil and garlic mayo to the BLT on a quality, toasted bread. To die for.
That sandwich would definitely rival a BLT. I could also use up some basil, which also did quite well this year!
Wow. I need that sandwich right now.