We humans may have melted during this summer’s heat, but tomatoes LOVE the hot weather. The reward for the past two disappointing tomato seasons is this year’s bumper crop of delicious local tomatoes.
Now, not all tomatoes are created equally. There are tomatoes bought at a farmer’s market, grown in a back yard, patio, or even from a hanging bucket. These specimens are juicy, fleshy, acidic & sweet at the same time. These beauts are tender, heavy in the hand, and smell, well, like a tomato.
Enter exhibit ‘B’: The 5×6 or 6×6 tomato. These are the edible foods you see year round at the grocery store, and in most restaurants. You know, that slab of tomato sitting atop a burger and the wedge of tomato in the side salad are usually examples of these impostors. The industrial names indicate the size of the tomatoes, a case of 5×6 tomatoes is a 25 pound box packed 5 rows of 6 pieces per row. These poor things are picked while still green and hard. They have had no time to develop any flavor. They are shipped to a warehouse and upon demand, are ‘sprayed’ with ethylene to deliver that promised ‘tomato red’ color. Is it any wonder that texturally they are mealy, tough, and ‘dry’? Their taste and smell, so non-descript, that I can only think ‘waxy’.
The time is now, friends. This weekend make an event of buying a couple of pounds of heirloom tomatoes. Get a variety of shapes, sizes, colors. Mix the big ones up with a variety of cherry and grape tomatoes. Slice them up and taste them. First sample ‘em naked, then simply adorn them with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Zero in on the difference in acid levels. Do you notice that yellows tend to be sweeter? Pick up on a certain smokiness of a Zebra which is a green tomato. Look at the different types of red tomatoes’, I love the Cherokee Purples that are packed with juice, or the classic Brandy Wine tomato.
After you have sampled, throw them together in some kind of salad. And get your fill- to hold you over to next year’s tomato season.
Tomato, Corn & ‘Cado Salad
3 tomatoes, ideally a red, a green and a yellow, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
3 ears corn, taken off of the cob and heated, covered with a paper towel in the microwave for 1 minute
1 small clove garlic OR shallot, finely chopped
1 cup canned black beans or white beans, rinsed well
2 Tbsp lime juice (fresh lime)
1 cup cilantro, chopped
Salt and pepper
Mix all ingredients together, and enjoy!