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.

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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!





4 comments:

Pat in 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!