Finally, even with our erratic weather patterns, tomatoes have returned to our market’s tables. For many of us it is always a long wait, even when lucky enough to see them sooner. If we are even more fortunate the season will extend into late September. In our house, there is no such thing as too many tomatoes. Not even when the peak of the seasonal glut is in play.
The transformative contribution of the tiny Peruvian tomato to the cuisines and tables of the planet is incalculable. That small yellow globe carried to Spain as an ornamental made its way to Italy where it was developed and bred for hundreds of years. It married into the local family of pasta and the rest is history. Except that history never stops happening. Not in Italy, Spain or anywhere. Along with pasta, the tomato has been classically mated with basil, BLTs, a long list of cheeses, pizzas, Saomorejo (tomato and bread puree from Cordoba), and an infinity of sauces and stews. Our fruit-turned-vegetable didn’t stop in Europe. China has become the tomato’s greatest enthusiast, being the top producer to the tune of growing 56.8 million tons a year. The U.S. weighs in 3rd at 14.5 million tons a year. That’s a lot of really good eating.
The generally red globe has fans everywhere. Some states and counties hold festivals in honor of the tomato. Spain, perhaps pouting at having lost the management and control of the edible, holds an annual La Tomatina, the world’s largest food fight, in which they cheerfully waste up to 319,670 pounds of tomatoes. Me, I rather take a salt shaker into the garden for a sun-warmed lunch.
The USDA claims that there are 25,000 tomato varieties, though other sources say there is a mere 10,000. Whatever the correct number, growers refuse to be content and continue to develop new, bigger, smaller, better, redder, yellower varieties. The current Guinness record holder for the largest tomato is Dan Sutherland of Walla Walla Washington who literally tipped the scales with his 8.61 pound tomato in 2016. However, a newer breed has appeared in England called the Gigantomo which averages 3 pounds and 10 inches wide. Other folks are sweetening the offering with varieties such as Sungolds. These miniature mouthfuls are candy-sweet and grow in golden orange clusters.
Our website is overflowing with tomato recipes, including: Tomato Goat Cheesecake, Peach and Tomato Gazpacho, Cookless Tomato Buttermilk Soup, Tomato Risotto, Tomato Jam and an uncooked tomato pasta main course known as Old #4. This week we’ve got Sausage & Cheese Stuffed Tomatoes, which are easy to prepare in advance.