One of The Best Things About Summer: Tomatoes

by admin | July 18, 2014 9:14 am

There’s only two things that money can’t buy, and that’s true love and home-grown tomatoes.

Guy Clark


OK, technically you can buy homegrown tomatoes this time of year from vegetable stands alongside the highway. But unless one is utterly friendless or a hermit, right about now tomato-growing friends, acquaintances and kinfolk begin bombarding everybody they know with tomatoes. That is one of the few redeeming features of an East Texas summer, in my humble estimation. The weather usually is ridiculously humid and hot, and it generally stays that way until late September. But at least the bounty of tomatoes, jalapeño peppers, purple hull peas and other garden delights is so plentiful that even us non-gardeners get our fill.

Especially of tomatoes. Just last week, a carrier kindly dropped off a plastic sack of this luscious fruit, and a brother-in-law showed up with a cardboard box filled with Best Boys. Or maybe they were Big Boys.

It doesn’t matter. All I know is that my wife, aka the Beautiful Mystery Companion, and I have been eating tomatoes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I am trying to drop a few pounds gained while on vacation in New England eating tons of seafood and other exotic cuisine. Thus my dinner lately consists of a large tomato cut into wedges and dosed liberally with ground pepper, accompanied by a couple slices of onion, a sliced-up fresh jalapeño, and a couple of crackers. That fills me up nicely for hardly any calories.

Last summer we attempted to plant tomatoes both in containers and in the ground. However, our yard, which resembles a park because of all the trees and azaleas, is simply too shady. Our “crop” consisted of two puny tomatoes. The only thing we can grow successfully is basil. That herb pairs well with tomatoes, mozzarella cheese balls and ciabatta bread dipped in olive oil with red pepper flakes.

I am getting hungry just thinking about that repast, but I have to stay away from the cheese and bread for a while.

Five years ago, when my BMC and I were courting, I planted several tomatoes along a fence line in the historic neighborhood where I had bought an old house. My neighbor Joe, who was retired and had a lot of time on his hands, decided to plant tomatoes just over the fence from mine, in his backyard. A competition soon arose over who was going to grow the tastier tomatoes. As I said, this fellow had time to spare. He would venture out day and night dousing his plants with Miracle-Gro in an effort to gain an edge on me — who had to work for a living. Luckily my plants were slightly downhill from his, so the runoff Miracle-Gro fed them as well.

The competition soon escalated. Finally we agreed to have a blind taste test to determine who had grown the most scrumptious tomato. We enlisted my BMC, her daughter (now my daughter as well) Abbie, and Joe’s wife, Elaine, as judges. Abbie was an iffy judge since she doesn’t really like tomatoes, being a teenager. Most teens only stick with foods that are brown in color  — chips, pizza, chicken nuggets and the like. Abbie is no exception, although in recent years she has developed an obsession with sushi.

We duly blindfolded Abbie and the women. Elaine voted for her husband’s tomatoes, and my BMC picked mine. I think they were peeking beneath the bandanas. Abbie ended up serving as the tiebreaker and wisely named my tomatoes the best of the lot. I awarded myself the blue ribbon and generously gave Joe a red ribbon for second place.

I ate so many tomatoes that summer that the skin between my fingers turned a light shade of orange. It looked as if I had accidentally spray-tanned my hands. This worried me enough to ask my doctor if I was at some health risk, but he was sanguine about my prospects. The tinge went away a few weeks after the vines dried up.

This summer I’m keeping a close eye on my skin coloring, even as I down another homegrown tomato. They really are one of the best things about summer.


Source URL: