Anyone who wants to call this fruit a tomaaahhhto is welcome to do so. “A rose is a rose, is a rose, is a rose.” As long as there are enough left to eat, it matters not. August has fulfilled its promise of these red, yellow, green and purple orbs, ovals and oddities. Sometimes I think about just taking a salt shaker to the market and standing there eating while filling my basket. We all have daydreams. Perhaps especially in these days of confinement, zooming and socially responsible distancing, such a simple daydream could be allowed a little reality.
This tiny Peruvian fruit was transported by treasure-seeking Conquistadors back to Europe where it was viewed with great suspicion, denounced as toxic and related to the realm of a garden ornamental. When the Spanish ruled the Kingdom of Naples, they brought the tomato with them. Despite the significant support of the Medici, the tomato continued to languish unloved. However, the Italian sun made an investment and, so nurtured, the tomato came into its own. It is Italy that we need thank for most of the varieties we know today. Nonetheless, it was not until the 19th century that Italy made the brilliant match of wedding the tomato to pasta. The results of which transformed the already justly famous Italian cuisine.
The Spanish must be acknowledged for their contribution to tomato history. They, however, have acknowledged that it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Along about 1945 there was a glut of tomatoes in sunny Spain. Apparently overwhelmed with good tomato fortune, a few inundated cooks in Buñol, Spain spied a few councilmen in a civic parade passing their window. The exact source of their dissatisfaction with these town representatives has been lost to history. What we do know is that they decided to launch a few overripe tomatoes out the window at them. This is said to be the origin of the La Tomatina festival held in Buñol every last Wednesday of August. The town’s promotional material claims for itself the distinction of being the world’s largest food fight. There are rules, including that the first tomato may not be thrown until someone successfully climbs a greased pole holding a prized ham on top. More than 319,670 pounds worth of tomatoes have been thrown. As the festival was cancelled this year for the usual reason, the poor citizens must have had to eat the game gear. Poor darlings.
Here in the U.S. we celebrate our tomatoes with festivals. Normally smart, hard-working folks dress themselves, their children and occasionally their pets as tomatoes. Then they parade through the main streets of their towns and parks to pay homage to the fruit of their farmers’ labors. There are tomato pie contests, largest tomato contests, tomato eating contests, ketchup contests, etcetera. Last September, the Guinness Book of Records recorded the largest tomato grown to date as being that of Steve and Jean Marley of Clinton, New York. This gem weighed 9 pounds and 10.4 ounces. How did they make a meal out of that?
Once tasted, the tomato wins friends and influences chefs everywhere. Not that we need an excuse to indulge, but more and more studies tout the health benefits of this fruit. There are many recipes on our website for Tomato Jam, Tomato Risotto, Tomato Cheesecake, soups, salsas and sauces. For today, we’ve made a Tomato Tart with Goat Cheese and Caramelized Onions which makes a great appetizer or lunch. Browse through and see what will tickle your fancy this week.