You know that the summer growing season is in full swing when you can freely pop locally grown, vine-ripened cherry tomatoes into your mouth. Pure, sweet tasting bliss is always the satisfying reward.
So rich in flavour are the field-grown tomatoes of every shape and size that some folks cut and serve them with just a trickle of their favourite oil and vinegar, a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Crusty bread is the best way to mop up any remaining juices.
By mixing the ripest whole cherry tomatoes-yellow and red-with the larger, chopped, red beefsteak and plum tomatoes, your salad will be diverse both in appearance and taste. Mix in some fresh, whole basil leaves with your best vinaigrette, and a crowd-pleaser is born.
Sometimes in Bermuda, but more often in European and North American farmers’ markets -where specialty seeds are more easily available – the line-up of tomatoes includes the so-called heirloom varieties. (The names of these change with each seed supplier.) They are beautiful both in appearance and taste. But their myriad shapes and collective colours dance well together in a big salad bowl, not to mention in your mouth. Imagine this radiant tomato line-up and then try it sometime: small, pear-shaped red and yellows, yellow and red cherries or currants, purple, striped green and mauve, orange and green, orange with red striations or gleaming canary yellow and bright orange.
If you haven’t made a space in your garden to grow your own tomatoes, then the best place to buy them is directly from a local grower at their farm shop or roadside stand. Be sure to call to check with individual growers about their summer hours.
And when you have your supply in-house, be sure not to refrigerate them. Cold temperatures make tomato flesh pulpy and take out most of the flavour.
When tomatoes are in abundance, make a large batch of this, but don’t add the cream until you’re ready to use it.
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to tase
1 large, ripe tomato, peeled, seeded and pureed
3 tablespoons heavy cream
Whisk the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper together in small ceramic bowl before adding the tomato. Whisk in cream and pour over green salad.
All you need is a bag of good corn chips for scooping up this refreshing mixture, or put a large dollop over freshly grilled fish or chicken.
1lb. ripe tomatoes, diced
2 tablespoons white onion, minced
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced
1 teaspoon honey (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Mix all ingredients together in a ceramic mixing bowl. If the tomatoes are really sweet, do not add honey. To allow flavours to blend, chill mixture for 30 minutes before serving.
Tomatoes’ Juicy Facts
Fruit or Vegetable?
Both. Botanically, tomatoes are the fruit of a vine just as are cucumbers, squash and beans. But legally the tomato is a vegetable. In 1893, The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that because the tomato was part of the principle meal, and not, like fruits generally, a dessert it could be subject the same import tariffs as other vegetables. (Fruits at this time were exempt from these tariffs.)
Which Tomato to Use?
There are over 400 different types of tomatoes. Here are some of the most popular varieties and their claims to fame:
- Beefsteak: A big juicy tomato with an old-fashioned taste-the kind of tomato to eat over the sink. Claim to Fame: Sliced up on a sandwich or drizzled with olive oil and accompanied with fresh mozzarella and basil
- Cherry: A big larger than the size of a cherry, this brilliant red morsal has a delicious sweet flavour. Claim to Fame: Snacking and salads
- Grape: An elongated version of the cherry tomato-very sweet and complex flavour. Claim to Fame: Great for crudités
- Colourful Tomatoes: Black, green, yellow, orange and multi-coloured-tomatoes are available in a rainbow of colours all with hints of different flavours from sweet and tart combinations to spicy overtones. Grab a bunch to add a splash of live to a mixed tomato salad.
Tomato or Tomahto?
I say tomato. You say tomahto.