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farmer jo 
up tomatoes
by Joanna Piatek | 1 2 3

It began back in early July: my overwhelming need for a REAL tomato. Not those half red, half yellow, pasty tomato knockoffs that the groceries seem to think will fool us.  So come late summer, when the first deep red, fragrant, vine ripened fruit falls into my hands, I’m overjoyed. Let the summer begin! (And so what if we’re already late into the summer by then.) I always gobble down the first tomato of the season like an apple – with a sprinkle of salt. Rich red juices dribbling down my chin.

Tomatoes weren’t always met with this sort of enthusiasm. The Incas and the Aztecs cultivated the tomato as early as 700 AD, but it took much longer for the rest of the world to enjoy the tomato’s virtues. The British long believed that the tomato was poisonous because of its close relation to the extremely poisonous belladonna plant. Apparently they decided not to credit the tomato with its other friendlier relatives— potatoes, peppers, eggplant and the petunia. The French referred to tomatoes as Love Apples, believing that they had discovered yet another aphrodisiac. It wasn’t until later in history that the tomato gained popularity in the United States. The fruit became so popular that the Supreme Court ruled, in 1893, to make it a vegetable to ease importing!

Picking out the perfect summer tomato is easier than you think. Just smell. If you are assaulted with a rich earthy, tomato-ey smell, you’ve found a winner. If there is no smell, however, it’s a sign that the fruit – yes they’re really fruits – was not allowed to ripen on the vine and has been chemically ripened instead. Not so tasty!

The best way to enjoy a fresh summer tomato is in a salad. Start with a base of tomatoes and a simple vinaigrette, then add whatever you have available or strikes your fancy. Cucumber chunks, feta, and a handful of olives gives this salad a Greek twist. Torn basil leaves and fresh mozzarella will invoke memories of an Italian café. Throw in sliced sweet onion and a little sugar, and the tomatoes take on an Eastern European flair.

And don’t just stick with the red tomatoes either. The yellow, orange, purple, and even an occasional green tomato impart an interesting mix of flavors and color to the salad. Trust me on this; everything tastes good with tomatoes! Let your imagination go.

today's recipes
Simple Tomato Salad
Variations on a Theme of Tomato Salad
Cherry Tomatoes and Garlic
So Good! Tomato Sauce 

on towards the recipes

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