You Say Tomato!
Melinda O’Briant, Adult Education Manager
You say tomato, I say tom-ahh-to…Well, let’s face it, we all say tomato. Regardless, there is no other more quintessential flavor of summer! If you don’t grow anything else you should grow a tomato plant or two in your own backyard or on a porch, deck or office window. We all know those red orbs you see offered in the grocery stores in the winter are but pale imitations of the real thing.
Even as a lifelong gardener and farmer, I have been desperate enough to purchase a winter tomato, only to discover that it really has no flavor. One bite was all it took to be grossed out by that cool wet texture.
Tomatoes are the ultimate reminder of the importance of seasonality in good food no matter how many chefs try to sneak them on their winter menus.
In my humble opinion, it isn’t just winter tomatoes that are but pale imitations of the real deal. Summer supermarket tomatoes aren’t much better. To get the best tasting tomato, you really have to let it fully ripen on the vine. The longer they stay on the vine the more flavor will develop. They will also get soft when fully vine-ripened and are not easy to transport at this stage. Hence, no matter what the signs say, you can’t get a fully vine-ripened tomato in a supermarket!
So this makes raising you own tomatoes a worthwhile proposition. Here are a few basic tips:
- Make sure to pick a good variety. Generally, lighter skinned tomatoes have a lower acid content, which makes them sweeter. Some folks like sweet and some like acid. Taste different varieties to find the one you like.
- Don’t over-water your tomatoes. Lots of cracked tomatoes indicate you are over-watering. Roots growing on the stem of the tomato plant is another sign of over-watering.
- Once you harvest the truly vine-ripened tomatoes store them at 55 to 70 degrees, away from direct sunlight. Cold temperatures cause the flavor enzymes to stop working, resulting in less flavor.
- Eat the entire tomato! The seed and the jelly surrounding them have a higher umami content. The flesh has the higher sugar content, and the skin has the aroma compound furaneol.
I will be covering these topics and more during my All Things Tomato class in the Turner Farm Studio Barn on Wednesday, March 21.
I hope you can join me and begin planning for your encounter with the taste of summer.