Nothing says summer as richly as tomatoes. They’re especially dear to all of us in cold climates who have to make do with those unripe, tasteless hockey pucks marketed as tomatoes at most grocery chains during the winter – yuck! Any grocery story fruit that cooks down into an unfortunate pink slime isn’t much worth eating, in my books.
But for everyone who’s grown a tomato plant, whether in a pot on the back deck, on a balcony, or in a farm garden, it’s that taste of sweet, sun-ripened goodness that draws us back, over and over, to seed catalogues during the cold months. We’re looking for those tomatoes that ripen earliest in our hard climate, and yet don’t sacrifice any of the delicious sun-warmed taste we crave.
I’m always excited for this one, Martino’s Roma and because the seed comes true every year, you can buy it once and save the seeds forever (which is pretty cool because the plants adapt more specifically to your garden every single year you plant and then harvest your own seeds). It provides us with HUGE yields of paste and sauce tomatoes every year, which we eat raw in salads (they do double duty as slicers) and make into big batches of pasta sauce for the winter.
Even at the end of the season, you can haul in the last tomatoes before frost, chuck them into a big cardboard box, and they’ll continue to ripen. We ended up with seven large boxes of tomatoes this past summer from about twenty-five plants of various kinds.
We also grow an Italian sun-drying variety called Principe Borghese. The fruits are amazing little sweet nuggets of goodness, and though we don’t sun-dry them in our cool autumns, we do oven-roast them by the pound.
They go into a hot oven with a little high-quality cooking oil, some balsamic reduction, and slivered garlic, oregano, and basil from the garden, and they come out a couple of hours later tasting like concentrated bites of summer. Soooooo good during the cold months on homemade pizzas! The oven-roasted tomatoes also make pasta sauces pop and get tucked into everything, even this cheesy-leeky lasagna.
Everyone has a story about their favourite tomato, whether it’s the kind Oma used to grow in her garden or the little packet of seeds you’ve been saving from a particularly delicious variety you once grew and are anxious to plant again. Tomato catalogues are definitely choose-your-own-adventure stories of robust slicers, smoky-tasting black tomatoes, modern heirloom blues, and tiny wild currant tomatoes in sunburst yellow that shine on your tongue. What sort of tomato will you be sowing in your garden this summer, friends?