Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes!
The season is upon us. All of the seeding, transplanting, suckering, Thursday trellising, and constant watering is paying off in the form of tomatoes. The orbs of various sizes and shapes have been on all of our minds for the last few weeks – but really hitting home this week. Yesterday I spent a good amount of time picking the green zebra tomato – one of my favorites. An heirloom with yellow and green stripes, its flavor is sweet with a bit of a bite to it. We have dedicated a significant amount of time to cherry tomatoes. We plant so many not because we love to pick them (though it is a lot of fun at the beginning), but because we enjoy eating them and they provide us a type of tomato insurance. When disease starts to take down the plants, the cherry tomatoes seem to handle it the best.
A little more about tomatoes:
Botanically, tomatoes are fruits (a berry, the edible seed-containing part of a plant). Legally, however, tomatoes are vegetables, thanks to a US Supreme Court ruling that favored their “common use” over their botanical origin.
The Nix vs Hedden case in 1893, addressing the Tariff law of March 3, 1883, (which taxed imported vegetable but not imported fruit) brought the tomato classification to light. John Nix, a tomato importer brought Hedden, a collector of the port of New York to court to regain the taxes he had collected under protest. The Justice decided in Hedden’s favor, thus making the tomato, legally, a vegetable.
Ohio, in 2009, passed a law that made the tomato the official fruit of the state of Ohio. It is the official state vegetable of New Jersey. And politically correct Arkansas has named the “Arkansas Vine Ripe Pink Tomato” to be both the state fruit and vegetable in the same law, covering both its legal its culinary and botanical base. This January, Jeff, Betsy and I traveled to that fine state for the Southern SAWG (southern agriculture working group) conference. One of the things I was introduced to was the Arkansas traveler tomato. This is the pink heirloom we’re growing this year!
A sidenote about the guineas: They flew the coop and Jeff has pointed out their new location at a house across Hwy 801 – where they are enjoying the company of 3 new friends. I hope they kept fond memories of Sugar Creek and will visit at some point. Meanwhile, we are bringing in the chickens to do the job they left behind. Today Jeff will be moving their whole operation to sit on a large portion of block 2. The squash and cucumber beetles hours are numbered. We will let you know how it goes.
Enjoy the tomatoes this week,
Natalie and the Sugar Creek Crew
Mom's Rosemary Focaccia
1-1/3 cups warm water
2.5 teaspoons yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup olive oil
3.5 cups unbleached white bread flour
Cornmeal for dusting cookie sheet to prevent sticking
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves or 1 tablespoon dried rosemary leaves
¼ cup additional olive oil
1 teaspoon course salt, maybe less
Place first five ingredients in order in the mixing bowl. Knead in the bowl until smooth, dough will be sticky. Add in cut-up rosemary and mix. If you’re using a bread machine mix the first ingredients for five minutes and remove.
Grease cookie sheet with vegetable oil—cover with cornmeal. Shape dough into a flat disk in the middle of the cookie sheet. Cover and let rise for about 30 minutes until almost double in height and puffy.
Preheat oven to 425. Poke holes with your finger all around the top. Drizzle with ¼ cup olive oil and sprinkle with course salt, Bake for 10 minutes, reduce heat to 350 for 10-15 more minutes until bottom is a little brown.
Sungold Tomato Gazpacho (adopted from Milner's American Southern)
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small Vidalia onion
4 cloves minced garlic
1 cup minced fennel bulb (1 small bulb)
2 tablespoons minced ginger
3 to 4 pounds Sungold tomatoes
1 cup ground fresh breadcrumbs
1 small green bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced
1 large cucumber, peeled and diced
1 small jicama, peeled and diced
½ cup white balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
Salt and fresh black pepper to taste
Hot sauce, optional
1. Heat the oil in a large pan on medium heat and cook the onions, garlic, fennel and ginger until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.
2. Puree tomatoes till smooth in a food processor. Add tomato puree and the ground breadcrumbs to the onion mixture. Remove from heat and cool.
3. Add bell pepper, cucumber, jicama, vinegar, basil, cilantro and chives. Add salt and pepper to taste. If desired, add hot sauce. Cover and chill at least 2 hours, preferably overnight. To serve, garnish each bowl with 3 halves of Sungold tomatoes.
Makes 12 servings.