Jun 24, 2009

How 'Bout Dem (Love) Apples

There may be more lore, anecdotes and debates focusing on tomatoes than any other vegetable. Fruit. A tomato is a fruit. Develops from a flower and has seed. The fruit v. vegetable thing has certainly been up for debate. In the early 1890s, the Supreme Court ruled that tomatoes were vegetables for taxation purposes. But, I'll trust a horticulturist's take on that debate over the Supreme Court.
Long before deciding fruit or vegetable, people were debating whether the things were even edible. Botanists placed the tomato in the family Solanaceae, which also contains peppers, and potatoes. Trouble is, the highly toxic Deadly Nightshade plant is also a member of this family. Many Europeans who were newly introduced to the tomato thought that since deadly Nightshade was so, well, deadly, tomatoes must be too. On the other hand, tomatoes were called "love apples." A name that doesn't say poison to me. Some think the name love apple came about due to a language barrier, some because of the bright red color of the fruit (think Valentine hearts), and some believe it's because it was thought that tomatoes have aphrodisiac properties.

Here, honey, take a bite out of this possibly lethal fruit so we can get it on.

My dad has been having his own tomato debate with a co-worker. His co-worker insists that Creole tomatoes are a certain cultivar. My dad insists that Creole tomatoes are tomatoes that are grown in the alluvial soils of SE Louisiana. When it comes to tomatoes, I wonder why people just can't get along. I guess that's what happens when we are passionate about something.

And my family is definitely passionate about home grown tomatoes.

I spent many Saturdays in the family car (blue station wagon with wood paneling on the sides) riding down to Belle Chase to visit the Creole Tomato mecca that was Becnel's vegetable stand. Becnel's Creole Tomatoes are popular and sought after. They can be purchased many at a time in a white box with "Creole Tomatoes" written in red in a kind of pseudo script. Kids who don't know how to read yet know what that box is all about. Oh, and we never fretted over whether buying a box was too much. We knew there was no way they'd go to waste.

Creole tomatoes have a different texture and flavor than any tomato I've had. It must be the soil because you just can't get better tomatoes than those. Sorry to say it, but not even from my dad's garden.
Oh, now my dad can grow some tomatoes though. During tomato season we always had piles of tomatoes on the kitchen table, even after giving some to neighbors, family, coworkers. My friends thought the piled up tomatoes were a bizarre centerpiece, but it seemed alright to me.

I've been growing tomatoes since I was little...helping my dad battle blossom end rot and hornworms...which sometimes have more juice than the tomatoes themselves. I grow my own garden now and have recruited my son to fight for the cause. It's pretty cool to see him get excited over picking tomatoes. Or even to see his long, slim fingers, miniature versions of my own, arching
back from thick, green hornworms.

My Mother-in-law never uses tomatoes without peeling them first. I don't peel tomatoes. Ever. And I don't seed them either unless the juices will mess with the structural integrity of a dish (like pie). If you must peel them, here's an easy way.

There's a whole lot that can be done with tomatoes. Often, I like to eat them with just a little salt. Something else that's easy to do and one of my favorite summer side dishes/salads...
Marinated Tomatoes
from Ms. enPlace

Freshly picked, ripe tomatoes, 1 per person (total of 4-6)
1-1 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
about 1 T Dijon mustard (a big dab)
1 clove garlic, smashed
Salt & pepper
Olive oil
1 stem fresh basil, chopped (optional)
Thin slices of white onion, to taste (optional)

Cut tomatoes into wedges. Mix balsamic vinegar, mustard, garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil in a bowl. Add tomato wedges chopped basil and onions (if using) and toss gently. Marinate 4 hours. Do not refrigerate. Do not make the day before. The tomatoes will begin to break down.

I guess this is a mise en place of suggestions. Fresh basil can be added. The onions can be ignored. I suppose the garlic could too. If you really had to. If I don't have Dijon mustard, I like to use Creole Mustard. It gives a nice kick.

Mix up the dressing. You only need enough olive oil to thin it out a little bit. Don't worry if the dressing seems dry or paste-like. While marinating, the tomatoes will release some of there juices and take care of that problem.

Add the tomato wedges and onion. I don't use a lot of onion because raw onion ain't my thing. If you are using basil, add it now. Toss everything together.

Marinate for about 4 hours. Don't refrigerate. Ice boxes do nasty things to tomatoes. Don't go more than 4 hours either. The tomatoes will start to break down and get funky.

Serve. I don't serve the onion. Or the garlic. I leave it behind in the bowl.

This recipe is linked up with Seaside Simplicity's June Salad Roundup

1 comment:

  1. Yum! Another really great one - all have been so simple and the flavors you have used in each salad you have linked up are all my favorites!!


Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate your comments.