Wait, wait, wait, through fall, through winter, through spring. Tuck tender tomato seedlings into warm summer earth, pat, pat, and then wait, wait, wait some more. Wait, water, wait, water, wait, water, water, water, wait, until ~ finally ~ Tomato time!
They hang there, heavy red and shining, all of them, all at once, and you’d better use them fast before they drop, before they crack, and before the raccoons and other four-legged foragers have a tomato fiesta in your garden.
Terrific tomato recipes
What to do with all those spectacular, vine-ripened tomatoes, the kind you cannot find anywhere, anytime, in any supermarket, ever? You can only eat so many tomato sandwiches. Well, at least, you can’t invite people over for tomato sandwiches, can you? Anyway, if you’re looking for something special for your guests, these fabulous food writers have you covered:
~ Roasted grape tomatoes with garlic, pesto and herbs by Dynise at The Urban Vegan
~ Tomato Cashew Pesto with zucchini pasta by Junia at Mis Pensamientos
~ Rustic Bread Eggplant Lasagna topped with tomato slices by Lauren at Vegan Yum Yum
~ Wicked Easy Salsa by Jenn at Peas & Crayons
~ Tomato Basil Sauce by Cynthia at Veganish
~ Almost Autumn Tomato Salad by Jill at The Veggie Queen
~ Fermented Heirloom Tomatoes by EarthMother at In the Raw
~ Ridiculously Easy Tomato Basil Sauce with penne, broccoli, and arugula by Sonora at Once More with Veggies
If you have a great vegan tomato recipe to share, or if you know of one, send me a link and I’ll add it to this list.
Tomato times, a delectable discovery
Tomatoes are the most popular vegetable (actually a fruit) in America; they are both the most widely eaten and the most widely grown at home. We eat 12 million tons of tomatoes each year here in the USA. Worldwide about 130,000 tons per year are produced, and that is not counting those legions of backyard, balcony, patio and community plot producers, like us. How many tomatoes is that?
Tomatoes can be traced back to the early Aztecs in Peru and to places in Mexico. Tomatoes were introduced to Europe when explorers, possibly Columbus and Cortés, brought them back from their sea-faring quests. It was later, though, that the tomato solidly established its place in our hearts. In the late 1800s, a paradigm-shifting culinary creation was credited to a baker in Naples, Italy. This delectable discovery came to the states with Italian immigrants in the early 1900s ~ can you guess? You got it, pizza.
Vegan pizza recipe
Americans eat more than 13.8 billion slices of pizza per year, and I like to do my part. To make my favorite DIY vegan pizza, I use whole-wheat crust, topped with tomato sauce (of course), fresh basil and other herbs, minced garlic, and lots of diced sweet Vidalia onion instead of cheese. This is a lighter, healthier version than the typical take-out pizza, and I would (dare) say that it’s tastier, too.
The whole-wheat crust is adapted from a recipe by Linda Fraser, in The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook, 1995, a well-worn favorite.
- 4 cups white whole-wheat flour
- 2 tsp. Himalania salt, fine
- Active dry yeast, 1 packet
- 1½ cups warm spring water (you may need a little more or less)
Preheat the oven to “warm” setting. Mix flour, salt, and yeast thoroughly in a large ceramic bowl. Add the water, a little at a time, until the dough forms a smooth ball that is not too dry and not too sticky. Knead the dough for several minutes to work the yeast. Leave the ball of dough in the bowl, cover the bowl with a ceramic plate, and place it in the warm oven. Close the oven door and turn the oven off. Let the dough rise for about an hour, until it is about double the original size. Take it out of the oven and knead the dough some more. You can use the dough right away, or refrigerate or freeze it for later.
- Tomato sauce (your favorite) or about 12oz. of chopped garden tomatoes
- Fresh basil, parsley, marjoram, or any fresh herbs you have on hand
- 2 cloves fresh organic garlic
- 1 large white Vidalia onion, chopped, organic
To make the pizza, rub a large cookie sheet pan with organic canola oil, and spread the dough as thinly as you can over the pan. Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce on the dough. Add shredded herbs, garlic, and then top with the chopped onion.
Bake for about 20 minutes in an oven preheated to 375°F (or 191°C), and serve immediately. (No problem, right?)
Tomato for health and healing
Tomatoes are a good source of Vitamins A, C, K, and they are mildly anti-inflammatory, but probably their most notable contribution to our health is the carotenoid called lycopene. Tomatoes are the best (widely available) source of this powerful anti-oxidant. Lycopene works in synergy with other phytonutrients found in tomatoes to help prevent cancer, promote heart health, eye health, and more. Lycopene becomes more bio-available when tomatoes are cooked rather than raw.
On a less scientific note, rubbing raw tomato on your face is said to help with acne, and if you’ve got an excess of garden tomatoes, you could try a tomato bath, which is rumored to remove the smell of skunk spray. I haven’t tried this, and hopefully you won’t have to either, but just in case.
Please be aware that while the red, purple, yellow, and orange fruits are great for your health, the leaves of this nightshade plant are poisonous, and green tomatoes contain tomatine, also toxic. So eat the fruits when they are just about to fall off the vine, and don’t eat the greens.
Of course, if tomatoes are not completely red when you pick them, you can ripen them on the countertop. Just let them sit. Do not refrigerate tomatoes.
Tomato growing tips
Tomatoes are relatively easy to grow, but these are a few tricks we’ve learned over the years.
~ Add some Epsom salt (discovered in Epsom, England), a natural mineral salt containing magnesium and sulfur. Magnesium is a key catalyst for photosynthesis and other essential plant processes, and it is often lacking in garden soil. Yellowed leaves may be a sign of magnesium deficiency. Many humans, if not most, are also magnesium deficient, and adding plenty of magnesium to your veggie plants may be a good way to add magnesium to you! Because Epsom salt occurs naturally, it is fine for organic gardening. We don’t follow a particular formula or schedule. We sprinkle dry Epsom salt generously on top of the soil around the plants; then water the soil to help the salt soak in. It does seem to help. This is folk wisdom, passed along for generations, not necessarily science, but try it and see if it doesn’t work for you, too.
~ Watch for tomato/potato beetles, those striped ones that live underground through the winter and then emerge in the summer to take over your plants. Remove them and their larvae promptly. We do this by hand. Luckily, we only had them once.
~ Put cages around tomato plants soon after planting the seedlings. It is almost impossible to do this once the plants start to sprawl. Add further support as needed.
~ Try some heirloom tomatoes. These are seeds from tomato plants that have passed down for at least 40 years without being hybridized or genetically altered. We planted a purple heirloom tomato for the first time this year, and oh my ~ what a remarkably dense, full flavored, bit of tomato heaven. These have thick, juicy flesh like a ripe peach, small seed pockets, and an intense flavor. Next year, we might plant mostly heirlooms.
There are more than 7500 varieties of tomatoes out there, including more than 600 heirloom selections. The choice is large, but the time is short. (I’d be happy with just one nice vine-ripened tomato in the supermarket mid-winter.) The time is now, at least here in the northeast USA. Enjoy them while you can!