The Newbie Garden

When garden newbie’s put together a plan to plot their vegetable garden they see an assortment of players with the tomato as the Star of the cast.  Yet most of us tend to think of the tomato as kind of a “Blah” side dish type of veggie.  By the way, research shows the tomato is actually a fruit.    

For now, I would like to give this wonderfully tasty fruit the credit it is due.  With a little imagination, this everyday fruit can be transformed into culinary delight in a variety of ways.  The tomato started out as a tiny, twisted, wild fruit.  Using modern science, growers have been developing and creating hybrid tomatoes that are much more attractive.  The only problem is much of the flavor of the original fruit is lost in the process.   

So, the only way to get most of the flavors from the tomato is to grow them yourself.  It is one to the easiest fruits to grow.  Once you bite into a fresh homegrown tomato, you will know the difference between the homegrown and the store bought. 

Tomatoes can be so versatile, we need to think outside the box and put a gourmet twist into our tasty tomato.  Most of the time, tomatoes are thought of as just an addition to a green salad.  There is nothing wrong with that.  But we can do better; we can start treating this familiar side dish like the Main Dish it can be.

When shopping for tomatoes at the farmer’s market, stay away from the hybrids and go for the heirloom or home-style.  These tomatoes will not be like the ones your use to seeing in the produce aisles, but they will have much more flavor.

May I suggest a couple superstars, simple yet elegant:

  • Fresh-diced tomatoes bite size chunks of pepper jack cheese, fresh basil, kosher salt to taste, black pepper and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. 
  • Or, you could try using only tomatoes of all shapes, colors, sizes, and flavors, season with parmesan cheese, a pinch of kosher salt, and your choice of fresh herbs; Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar and I believe you will be pleasantly surprised with your results.
  • Another idea would be to cut large fresh tomatoes in the shape of a bowl.  Now we can WOW our family and guest with a beautiful main-dish style salad.  You could fill the tomato boat/bowl with crab salad, tuna salad, shrimp salad, smoked salmon.  Use your imagination the list could go on forever.  You can keep it simple and just add a variety of fresh veggies to a tomato bowl and serve.  
  • Let us not forget we can use the same tomato bowl for a hot salad.  Sauté onions, green peppers, toss with chopped escarole greens and canned great northern beans, put inside the tomato bowl, top with shredded pepper jack or provolone cheese and set under broiler just long enough to melt cheese.

Please keep in mind there is no end to the possibilities of flavors to a fresh garden tomato.

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