Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Home Grown Tomatoes

In our county, they're mostly called 'maters.' They grow well in this climate -- so well that they were at one time touted as a cash crop that would eventually replace tobacco. A few people made good money at first, then more and more people began to grow commercial tomatoes and there came a year when there was such a glut that it wasn't worth picking the crop, the prices were so low.

We never grew tomatoes commercially but I usually put in several rows so as to have plenty for canning and/or freezing. Homemade tomato sauce, with herbs from the garden is a wonderful convenience food -- lending itself to pasta dishes, chili, soup, or stews and
bringing the fresh taste of summer to many a winter meal.

For tomato sauce, I usually plant plum tomatoes -- Romas or San Marzanos -- but today I'm putting in eleven sturdy Cherokee Purple plants -- the tomato that my family has decided is the tastiest. We've been babying these starts in pots through the capricious late April/early May weather, carrying then inside if frost threatened, bringing them back out to bask in the sun during the day. Now they've got strong root systems and a few are trying to bloom. Our usual "frost-free" date is May 10 but I'm jumping the gun by a few days to get these beauties in the ground. The plum tomatoes are still small -- I'll plant them next week.

Posted by Picasa

I wrote about tomatoes In Art's Blood: Elizabeth began to fill her plastic milk crate with the long, firm San Marzanos and Romas that would form the basis of herb-rich sauces to be stored in the freezer, as well as providing leathery oven-dried tomatoes bursting with the concentrated flavor of summer. There was a small basket for the tiny grape tomatoes whose seeds a cousin had brought from France – first choice for a tossed salad or eating out of hand. Finally, there were the enormous slicing tomatoes – the aristocracy of the garden – deep crimson Brandywine, dark Cherokee, Black Krim, and a bright yellow nameless beauty whose seeds had come from Miss Birdie, a little bland in taste, perhaps, but so gorgeous in company with the others. Elizabeth laid these giants carefully in her big willow basket, envisioning a cobalt blue platter heaped with rounds of red and yellow interposed with slices of creamy fresh mozzarella, the whole glistening with generous amounts of olive oil, a prudent sprinkling of balsamic vinegar, shining crystals of sea salt, and fragrant ribbons of fresh green basil.”

Grow, you maters, grow!


Pat in east TN said...

Yum ... yum ... ain't nothin' like home grown tomatoes!!! We planted ours yesterday too and now the waiting begins ....

Vicki Lane said...

BLTs -- that's what I'm dreaming of -- with hog jowl bacon, homemade mayo, garden lettuce, and homemade bread.

Roses and Lilacs said...

People rave about Brandywines, but Cherokee Purples are my favorite. I have 4 in the garage waiting for warmer weather--if it ever comes.

Also Sweet Million, a new hybrid cherry tomato. Fabulous eaten right off the vine.

BLT's with homemade bread. I'd rater have one than a steak;) Really!

Vicki Lane said...

Absolutely, I agree! A good BLT is one of life's joys.

For cherry tomatoes, we're partial to Sungold -- yellow to bright orange and very sweet.

Hope planting weather comes to Illinois soon!