Jen: I used to have a vegetable garden when I lived in Prince George which is a cool climate. Lettuce, carrots, potatoes, cabbage and many others grow very well there. The challenge was to grow the warmer climate, longer ripening vegetables. I mastered them all with careful research on the best varieties for short season growing, sometimes as short as 1 month between frosts. One plant I especially wanted to grow were Tomatoes (Solanum lycopericum) which require lots of heat and sun. Fortunately there are many special seed varieties of tomatoes just for northern climates and other tricky situations which grow just fine.
It is believed that the first Tomatoes which we might recognize came from the highlands of Peru. The plant diversified into 20 subspecies as it moved to different areas of the Americas. It is known that tomatoes have been eaten since prehistoric times in Mexico. Hernando Cortez (1485-1547), the Spanish explorer is said to be the first European to have seen the fruit in the Aztec capital of Tenochititlan (modern day Mexico City). it is Cortez who it is said introduced the fruit to Europe. The fruit he would have brought back to Europe would have probably been a small yellow fruit called ‘Xitmalt’ meaning plump thing with a naval.
Europeans where first suspicious of the fruit and thought it was poisonous, this was because early tableware had a high lead content. The acid in the Tomatoes reacted to the lead and caused it to leech into food they were eating. Lead is highly toxic. Poorer people who used wooden plates and utensils never had this problem and commonly ate the fruit. Once dishes and utensils were made of better materials such as tin and porcelain Tomatoes made their way into wealthier families foods.
Tomatoes are especially popular which warmer climate countries such as Italy, Spain and of course South America. These countries have shown the way with their tasty use of tomatoes in all forms of cooking. As their forms of cuisine have become more popular, we have become more adventurous in using tomatoes in more unusual ways. We now use thick walled ‘plum’ tomatoes for making sauces, cherry sweet Tomatoes for salads and for nibbling on and heirloom varieties for their rich deep unique flavors.
Depending on your experience and the time you have, you can either start Tomatoes from seed or buy small starter plants. If you choose seed you can grow whatever type you want. I have always grown them from seed. When growing them you need a sunny warm location which has food air circulation. they need to be well watered when growing and blooming and then less when the fruit is set. Tomatoes grow well both in the ground or in a large container which make them popular for patios and highrise apartments and condominiums.
Tomatoes like rich soil which drains well. It is important to stake your tomatoes to keep them off the ground as the fruit will rot if it is damp. Tomatoes have few problems if grown correctly and produce huge crops. Don’t worry if they do not all ripen before winter, there are many tasteful green tomato recipes such as relishes and chutney which will add flavor and interest to your dinner.
More on Tomatoes:
Tomato species: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tomato
A great history of the tomato: http://www.tomato-cages.com/tomato-history.html
Hernando Cortez who brought us the tomato: http://library.thinkquest.org/J002678F/cortez.htm
Finally, how to grow them: http://www.helpfulgardener.com/vegetable/2003/tomatoes.html
Are You Tomato Crazy Like Me?
Kim: I have always loved tomatoes whether eating them or cooking with them, they are one of the things my kitchen can’t do without and every time I’m grocery shopping I buy them diced, tomato sauce, raw, paste, crushed – I don’t care, they have such good uses for all kinds of dishes!
I’ve never grown my own tomatoes yet but someday after we move out of our lovely apartment life (I’m being sarcastic), I’d love to actually have a garden and growing tomatoes are first on the list, let me tell ya! Now before my post here, I was doing research on red tomatoes but I was also curious about green tomatoes too and especially since I don’t use them much. And tomatoes is our choice for September so I couldn’t limit my recipes to just using the reds.
Green tomato growing – beautiful!
To begin my menu, I’ll start off with a familiar one but maybe overlooked a bit…
Fried Green Tomatoes
2 or 3 green tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 c. flour
Salt and pepper to taste
Oil for frying
Roll green tomato slices in flour. Salt and pepper and fry on both sides in oil until brown on both sides. Serve immediately. So good as a snack too!
Next on my list is a wonderful stuffed tomato and all my veggie friends will love this!
Stuffed Tomatoes and Peppers
I borrowed this recipe from Recipezaar and I think it’s a great way to use up fresh tomatoes!
5 medium perfectly-ripe yummy tomatoes
5 medium green peppers
3/4 c. olive oil
15 tbsp. rice, 1-1/2 tbsp. per tomato or pepper, to be stuffed
1 large onion, chopped fine (about 1-1/2 cups)
3 garlic cloves, minced very fine
1/4 c. fresh spearmint, minced (1 1/2 tblsps dried, crumbled)
1/2 c. parsley, minced (or cilantro)
1/2 c. pine nuts or slivered almond
1/2 c. hard mizithra cheese or kefalograviera cheese or parmesan cheese, cut into tiny cubes
1/2 c. sultana raisins (optional)
1 tsp. salt (I like using kosher salt)
1/2 tsp. pepper
1-1/2 c. water
1/2 c. olive oil
1 tbsp. tomato paste
salt and pepper
Cut off tops of tomatoes (retain tops) and carefully scoop out flesh (retain this as well) and the tops of peppers (retain tops) and remove seeds and membrane.
Place tomatoes and peppers in a pan large enough to hold them comfortably and give each vegetable a tiny dash of sugar with the tips of your fingertips (important!). Take tomato flesh and process it until pureed. Add olive oil, rice, onion, garlic, mint, parsley/cilantro, nuts, cheese, sultanas, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper (or season to taste). Stuff the vegetables evenly with this mixture.
Replace tops of tomatoes and peppers. Combine 1 cup of water and 1/2 cup olive oil with a scant tablespoonful of tomato paste and a little salt and pepper and pour this around the vegetable.
Bake in a preheated 375 degree F oven (180 C) for approx 1-3/4 hours (vegetables should pierce easily and be slightly blackened in parts). Turn off oven and leave in for another hour to ‘set’ before serving. This is best served slightly warm or at room temperature. YUMMY!!!
And no post on tomato is complete without using it in PIZZA so I won’t disappoint…
Tomato Mozzarella Pizza
1 pkg. Pillsbury pizza dough (regular or thin crust)
2 c. shredded mozzarella
1/4 c. shredded parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. fresh basil, snipped
2/3 c. mayonnaise
2 garlic cloves, pressed
4 plum tomatoes (Roma tomatoes), thinly sliced
olive oil spray
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 12 x 15 cookie sheet with olive oil spray or just use a pizza stone (preferable). Roll dough onto cookie sheet. Sprinkle crust with 1 cup mozzarella.
Combine the remaining mozzarella cheese, parmesan, basil, garlic, and mayonnaise in bowl. Layer tomatoes over mozzarella and top with cheese and mayo mixture. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly.
I love all these dishes and I love how they can be served as snacks, side dishes, party or as an appetizer! I think it’s dinner time now and pizza sounds good to me right about now!!!
So that does it for our September choice but check us out next month where we pick another herb, plant, veggie or whatever is on our minds to write about! Haa haa!
Until next Month! Cheers!
Posted twice monthly by Jen and Kim