Wednesday, September 03, 2008

In praise of tomatoes!!

So, here we are at the beginning of September with the summertime weather we've been longing for all season! Dry, 70+ degree weather, sunshine, and happy crops. What more could a farmer ask for? One of those super-happy crops happens to be the tomatoes this year! We can hardly believe how wonderful they are doing after all that wet dreary weather we have had. In fact, we just took note today that we are still really harvesting from the lower limbs of our tomato plants - where they ripen first. That means, there's all those limbs up higher that still are burgeoning with fruit that we have yet to tap! Could be a super-long tomato season, folks - and you know what that means! Canning and cooking with tomatoes will be the norm for at least another month, maybe two! I actually did my first canning run last night with some red slicers that we had sitting around. We are now the proud owners of 15 quarts of tomatoes and am beginning to feel secure in our tomato bank for the winter. Last year, we canned about 50 quarts of tomatoes and made it through the winter without buying a single can! We actually didn't finish all the tomatoes yet, and still have several jars, but the lion's share were definitely consumed in the cold months - baked eggplant, lasagna, pasta sauces, pizzas, we use tomatoes in so many things; this is definitely one late-summer task we always do no matter how tired we are!

This year, we have so many tomatoes - around 60 varieties - that I feel compelled to showcase a few of the most popular types here for posterity. Paul Robeson, Aunt Ruby's German Green, Persimmon, Yellow Brandywine, Garden Peach, Pineapple and Costoluto Genovese for starters.

Paul Robeson, african-american communist activist in the 1950s, singer, actor, and more. The Russians loved him, and so named a black tomato after him. I don't know about all his political leanings, but this is one FABULOUS tomato. It has the full rich flavor black tomatoes are known for - probably our favorite one year to year.

Garden Peach tomato. It belongs to a class of peach tomatoes - all of which are fuzzy and fruity. We love this heavy bearer. A great snack tomato - I actually want to try baking with it...

Aunt Ruby's German Green tomato. OK. This is our favorite tomato right now. This beauty is an endangered variety that is on the Slow Food Ark of Taste - to be saved in perpetuity because of it's amazing flavor. This is one tomato that you harvest by touch and not sight. Some, but not all get a pink blushing like the one here. Harvest by softness. Delicious full-flavored tomato!

Brandywine, Platfoot strain. HUGE tomatoes - 2 pounders are not uncommon. Fantastic flavor similar to the persimmon tomato - all meat and few seeds. These make incredible sauce!

Then there's the classic Italian heirloom - Costoluto Genovese. Not only strikingly beautiful, but satisfying ripe tomato flavor! Great for salads, and the scalloped edges make for some beautiful slicing.

Seeing those yellow tomatoes got me hungry for one of my favorite all-time summer dinners, Yellow Tomato Shrimp fra Diavolo. I'm so excited about it, I'm going to share the recipe here! People rarely think of using yellow tomatoes for sauce, but you absolutely must try it! Their textures and flavors lend them particularly nicely to seafood. In this case, shrimp.

Yellow Tomato Shrimp fra Diavolo
Serves 4

2 T. olive oil
3/4 pound peeled, deveined shrimp
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 T. fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
2 T. chopped basil leaves (pistou used here)
2-3 large yellow tomatoes, chopped (pineapple used here)
salt and pepper to taste
1 pound fun-shaped pasta

  1. Prepare the water for boiling the pasta. If the pasta takes 8 minutes to cook, begin when you start the tomato sauce.

  2. Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp, the garlic cloves and the crushed red pepper flakes. Cook until the shrimp begins to turn bright orange - about 1 minute. Remove the shrimp from the pan.

  3. To the hot and garlicky pan, add the chopped tomatoes and cook on high until the tomatoes have cooked down a bit and are a nice chunky sauce consistency - about 8 minutes. Sauce may be a little soupy, but this is fine. Add garlicky shrimp and chopped parsley and basil to tomatoes. Stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

  4. Drain al dente pasta, divide amongst the bowls and top with the tomato sauce. A little shaving of parmesan cheese also goes nicely with this, as does a really oaky red wine. Enjoy!


kevin said...

oh man, this is fabulous! Your tomates are always the best!!! We have quite a few showing their face at market right now but, we have really lacked the long sufficient heat i think to really impress me with anything as dazzling as what you guys bring to market. I am soo lusting to put up tomates for the winter but, I am fearing that we may not. The price for fresh produce here in PDX is astronomical!! (a hungry market)
I am also keeping a keen eye for hot far not a one!
Did however have my first pimento san good!
Do you think you would ship some od those fine tomates west? ;)
Thanks for sharing, and planning friday nights dinner for us.
Miss you guys!!

Monique said...

I love your photography! I am going to try this recipe with Al Dente Roasted Garlic Linguine. It cooks in just 3 minutes and tastes exactly like homemade. Their website is but you may find it at your local store.