11 March 2011

'Mater Heads

I have tomatoes on the brain. It usually happens this time of year, when my garden stash - either canned, frozen, or stored on vines - has been eaten. I'm forced to buy grocery store tomatoes, which are essentially just pretend produce. Looks like a tomato, feels like a tomato, tastes like nothing. Even when they are ripe, the grocery store tomatoes, bred for travel and not taste, are a huge and unspeakable disappointment.

Fueling my tomato fantasies are the Black Prince plants in my kitchen and dining room (from a hailstorm-save last autumn), vigorous growers that we recently topped to create four more plants. I have six gorgeous two-foot beauties ready to go into walls of water, and one of my favorite varieties no less! I planned to leave you the link at Baker Creek Heirloom seeds where we originally bought these, but they are out-of-stock! This particular plant has either caught on in popularity, or they had a seed-growing disaster last summer, so no stock. Another reason for saving your own seeds each year, something you can only do with open-pollinated seeds like these. Here's the technical information:
An heirloom from Irkutsk, Siberia. The 5-oz. tomatoes are round and very uniform; the color is a wonderful deep blackish-chocolate brown. The flavor is as deep, sweet and rich as the color. A unique salad tomato; the plants produce a large crop and early; a good tomato for fine markets.
The Black Prince is pictured top right in the gardener's hands. Look at the color!

But this is only one variety of dozens we grow, which end up on the plate looking like a still-life water color. Does that just make you drool? All of these, despite their unusual colors, are vine-ripened. What a feast to the eyes first, then the palate, and infinitely appropriate in an artist house like ours.

This is so simply delicious, one hardly needs a dressing to embellish the salad. Another favorite is an old-fashioned sandwich with homemade mayonnaise and bread. It's a treat I can live on the entire month of August. This year, I'm hoping we can time our first sunflower oil production to coincide with mayonnaise and tomatoes - more on that later. I also plan to can up a good-sized batch, because we often use tomatoes in cooking, and so it makes sense to have great-tasting ones from my own storehouse. Our friends, Mark and Lauren, make their own pasta for dinner parties, and simply add  home-grown and home-canned chopped tomatoes with a drizzle of good olive oil as a simple sauce. With a light sprinkling of Parmesan cheese, it's delicious!

Can I carry on much longer about this? Why, yes, I can. Here are some tomato babies in my kitchen right now. Look at those beauties - grow, little ones, grow big and strong so we can eat you!

That sounds quite dreadful, but they really love hearing this, and I swear I can see them stretching themselves skyward even as I speak the words. Okay, so I exaggerate. Hehe.

What about you all? What's your favorite tomato to grow? And to eat? Or even to throw?


Anonymous said...

We used to eat tomato and mayo sandwiches too! I could never figure out which I preferred, them or a tomato salad with nothing but olive oil, garlic, basil and salt - of course, with great Italian bread for dunking in the fabulous juices. Put in a pan with a little shrimp or the little scallops, some linguine on the side and oh my! We have some heirloom seeds - don't know what kind - from my neighbor from last summer - fingers are crossed. Time to put them in some dirt. You must tell us how you contain your plants - we [read DH] have yet to find a satisfactory method [mostly because he doesn't agree with me and won't try my suggestions!] I like the way my son/s.o. did theirs: tented bamboo and tied with cord. That was a good use for invasive bamboo.

Anonymous said...

It's so hard to pick a favorite, but I guess I'd go with persimmon--huge and orange and bursting with citrusy tomato flavor (and low acid, too)! I'm starting my seeds this weekend, but then I am a mite higher than you are Dani. Thanks for the look at your plants and seedlings--it's tomato-dreaming time!

Lee Ambrose said...

Yes, Dani... you are making me drool. I love 'mater/mayo sandwiches ! The photo of the variety of colors is great! But it only makes me long for a fresh tomato even more!!!

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