The First of the Tomatoes

The first of the tomatoes are starting to arrive at market! Say goodbye to hard, flavourless imported field tomatoes and hello to perfectly vine ripened, delicious, colourful heirloom varieties. Slowly, but surely the stalls at the Langley markets are filling with tomatoes. Botanically speaking, tomatoes are a fruit. What we eat as the tomato is actually the ovary of a flowering plant.  Fun fact though; during the late 1800’s a tariff dispute in the US resulted in  the tomato being legally declared a vegetable as US tariff laws imposed duties on vegetables imported into the US, but not fruit! The decision was justified by the typical culinary use of the tomato and lack of sweetness. One could debate the sweetness though. My mum often ate a tomato out of hand, saying they were as sweet as an apple. Mind you, she also told me eating a roasted parsnip was just like eating candy….!

Nature Village Tomatoes

Tomatoes are native to South America, and are part of the nightshade family. Nightshades are often deadly and the tomato was long thought to be poisonous by Europeans. This might be because of the reaction to the acid in the tomato reacting with the pewter plates commonly used at the time. We now know of course that this isn’t true, unless of course you are allergic to foods from the nightshade family.

Growing tomatoes is relatively easy although they can be susceptible to various pests and blight. Generally speaking, tomatoes like full sun, acidic soil and even watering. Combine those 3 things with the right varieties and you can have an abundance of tomatoes in your garden. Even if all you have is a balcony, you can grow them!

Speaking of varieties, according to Wikipedia, there are over 7500! I can’t imagine trying to weed through a seed catalogue to choose which ones to plant. Thankfully, the farmers at market have done that for us and all we have to do is buy them. A conversation with    will give you all the information you need to make your choice. Both farms carry a wide variety, from the common bright red beefsteak through the green striped zebra to the bright yellow Taxi, and everything in between. Once you know what you want to do with them, they can guide you in choosing the perfect ones.

Let’s talk about what to do with all those beautiful tomatoes. Fresh salsa, sauce, gazpacho, bruschetta, salad…the list is endless. A simple salsa can be as easy as dicing some tomatoes, onions, peppers and cilantro and putting it all together. You can add a bit of jalapeno if you want some heat.

Diced raw tomatoes combined with diced red onion, garlic and basil will get you a bruschetta topping, perfect for serving with toasted bread from 2 Bald Bakers.

Maybe all you want is a simple salad. The classic panzanella  salad takes on a market twist when you use bread from any of the great market bread vendors and finish it with a drizzle of Amazing Foods balsamic vinegar. Toss crispy bread cubes with chunks of tomato, cucumber and fresh basil, then add a good quality olive oil and let it marinade for an hour or so.

Sometimes simple is best. A thick slice on a sandwich or a burger is about as simple as it gets, and as good too!

If cooking is what you would like to do, clearly a pasta sauce is at the top of the list. Either light and fresh or slowly simmered, both are outstanding. A quick saute of garlic, chopped tomatoes, basil and spinach , perhaps with a bit of KOJI salt and AJI chunky chili sauce thrown in will get you a fast sauce for angel hair pasta. Change it up by adding a protein like chicken or shrimp, or even some Italian sausage from Redl’s Beef.  A timeless spaghetti sauce can be as easy as tomatoes, garlic, onions, peppers and oregano cooked low and slow, then finished with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of cinnamon. Make a big batch and keep it in the freezer.

How about zucchini boats? Cut a zucchini in half lengthwise and hollow out a channel. Brush the channel with olive oil, sprinkle on some oregano then place halved cherry tomatoes in a row and sprinkle with bread crumbs.  Bake at 350 for 30 mins. Remove from oven, cover with grated cheese and return to the oven till the cheese is browned.

However you choose to prepare and eat your tomatoes, know that by supporting your local market and farmer you are not only making your mouth happy, you are validating the hard work that those of us that feed you do. And for that, we thank you!

I’ll leave you with a proper recipe! Try these ground pork stuffed tomatoes with a green salad and some good bread.

Ground Pork Stuffed Baked Tomatoes

6 medium Tomatoes

1 lb Lean Ground Pork from Central Park (Sub in lentils for a vegetarian version)

1 small Red Onion

2 tsp Minced Garlic

¼-1/2 cup chopped Bell Peppers (optional)

¼ tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

½ tsp Salt

½ tsp Ground Black Pepper

1 cup Bread Crumbs

1 beaten Egg

2 tsp chopped Parsley

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350.

Split tomatoes through centre and scoop out centres into a bowl.

Place hollowed tomatoes into a baking pan and set aside.

Chop tomato centres.

Peel and finely dice onion.

Place a little olive oil in a skillet and begin to cook pork.

Add diced onion, minced garlic, salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes.

Cook and stir until meat is no longer pink.

Add bell peppers and diced tomato centres and cook for 2 more minutes.

Remove from heat.

Add beaten egg and bread crumbs mixing well.

Fill tomatoes with skillet contents.

Place tomatoes in oven for 40-45 minutes until tomatoes are tender.

Blog post written by Karen at Kiks Lemomade

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