Tomatoes are in Season: Don’t Miss Them!

Tomatoes, on the vine“Bob, slow down! Now get ready to pull over! There’s a stand around the next corner. We can’t miss it!” Mom chirped at Dad in the front seat of our 1961 Pontiac, Bonneville.

“Oh hell! Don’t you already have enough tomatoes to keep you canning for a week?” Dad grumbled. It was their usual tomato season banter. Dad took it all in his stride never loosing the momentum of puffing on his pipe, something he’d mastered so well.

My brother and I whined from a dusty back seat while we were zigzagging over curvy country roads in search of Beefsteaks, Romas and Early Girls. Each sign that read FRUIT in bold red letters brought renewed hope of finding the juiciest, freshest, plumpest, and the lowest-priced tomatoes. Tomatoes seemed to be Mom’s weakness or her passion, I never really figured out which was the case.

When Mom couldn’t persuade Dad to go fruit stand hopping with her, she’d round up my grandmother and I and we’d once again wind through the valley roads. I began enjoying the outings by the time I reached my preteen years, and later as a young adult I looked forward to the yearly event.

In looking back I think it may have been the Norman Rockwell atmosphere of the road-side fruit stands that called out to Mom. Perhaps the rustic sheds that popped-up at the end of long dirt driveways recaptured a slice of yesterday that Mom longed to preserve. Sadly the lazy, down-home ambiance of small, family-owned fruit and vegetable farms are becoming a ghost of the past.

Thoughts of our tomato hunting adventures came back to me last week when the Heatwave and Big Boy tomato plants just outside my kitchen door began producing a bumper crop of the juicy jumbos. This year I planted an assortment of tomatoes plants mostly as an experiment to see what types of tomatoes produce well in my area of the Southwest. To my delight the experiment was a success.

Once again I’m enjoying the simple pleasure of having fresh tomatoes at my doorstep. The days of putting up pints of home-canned tomato sauce and ketchup are behind me, but I took full advantage of these red beauties by making CB’s Marinated Tomatoes. It’s a recipe I’ve made for years, which originates from the kitchen of Lucille Edwards, Auburn, Washington. It’s sure to make your taste buds sing, but only if home-grown or heirloom tomatoes are used – anything else just won’t cut it.

Tomatoes are in season from now until the end of September or until the first frost. They’re available at most roadside vegetable stands. But remember, “Slow down, you don’t want to miss ‘em!”

Tomatoes, in a box

CB’s Marinated Tomatoes

6 large homegrown or heirloom tomatoes, washed and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon ground sea salt
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
1 sprig fresh marjoram, chopped
1 to 2 tablespoons scallions or green onions with some green stem, finely chopped
Parmesan cheese, shaved (optional)

Combine marinade ingredients in a shaker. Pour over sliced tomatoes; gently stir so all tomatoes are coated with marinade. Cover and marinate at least 1 hour before serving.

Serve as a side dish garnished with shaved Parmesan cheese, or with dollops of cottage cheese and seasoned croutons as a light lunch. Yum!

Cook’s Note: If fresh herbs aren’t available, they may be replaced with dried herbs. Use less herbs when using dried and let the tomatoes marinate at least 3 hours before serving.

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