Timely Tomatoes

Timely Tomatoes

"The tomato invades the kitchen, it enters at lunchtime, takes its ease on countertops, among glasses, butter dishes, blue saltcellars. It sheds its own light, benign majesty.
Unfortunately, we must murder it. . .
- From "Ode to Tomatoes," by Pablo Neruda

It's the time of year when across America the tomatoes are lining up on windowsills and countertops faster than we can eat them. The birds are getting their share of mine (more than their share) but we still have plenty of tomatoes--not enough to can and not enough to give away, but plenty to eat.

So, it's time to murder them.

In that spirit, I offer you 13 ways to eat tomatoes (13 because that's the number of tomatoes sitting on my windowsill) and 12 tomato facts:

    1. Raw, like an apple.

      Tomato Fact # 1: There are over 1000 varieties of tomatoes. I plan on working my way through them all.

      1. Cut into a starburst (sliced nearly all the way through into eighths) topped with cottage cheese and sprinkled with black pepper.
      2. Tomato Fact # 2: One medium tomato has only 35 calories and provides you with 40% of your RDA for Vitamin C and 20% of your RDA for Vitamin A.

      3. Raw, like an apple, sprinkled with salt.
      4. Tomato Fact # 3: The Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland reports that the jelly surrounding tomato seeds can prevent blood clots and may be safer than aspirin.

      5. Quartered or sliced and tossed with basalmic vinegar.
      6. Tomato Fact # 4: Tomatoes are a native of Peru. They didn't reach Italy until the 1500s.

      7. Raw and warm, standing in the garden by the tomato plant and wiping the juice on your shirt.
      8. Tomato Fact # 5: Every Columbus Day weekend, there's a Tomato War in Warren, Vermont, where hundreds of folks divide into teams and do battle with tomatoes for weapons--splat!!

      9. Peeled and cooked with sliced okra.
      10. Tomato Fact # 6: Botanically, the tomato is not a vegetable. It's a fruit. Legally, however, it's a vegetable--in 1893, the U.S. Supreme Court declared it so to settle a trade issue.

      11. As a BLT--with bacon and lettuce on bread (cheese, onions and mayo optional--a COMBLT?)
      12. Tomato Fact # 7: Many commercial tomatoes are ripened artificially with ethylene gas--the same gas emitted by bananas and apples. This ripening leads to the mealy supermarket tomatoes (tomaybes) you find in winter.

      13. Tomato and basil sandwich--halve a tomato, put several basil leaves on it and top it with the other half and eat with both hands.
      14. Tomato Fact # 8: Eliza Lesli's 1848 cookbook, "Directions for Cookery" dictated that tomatoes should be cooked for at least three hours to lose their unpleasant raw taste. Clearly, she was a Yankee.

      15. Sliced, sprinkled with your favorite cheese and baked until the cheese bubbles.
      16. Tomato Fact #9: Perhaps because of their poisonous leaves, tomatoes were once considered toxic by many, and even, for a time, thought to cause cancer. Now, they're thought to help prevent it.

      17. Chopped and mixed with diced red onions and a little lemon juice for a refreshing salad.
      18. Tomato Fact # 10: The English grew tomatoes as ornamental plants in the 1600s. They didn't eat them until the mid 1800's.

      19. Quartered and tossed with sliced cucumbers, sliced onions and a 50/50 vinegar-water mixture.
      20. Tomato Fact # 11: Americans eat an average of 13 pounds of fresh tomatoes each every year. (As usual, we're way above average in our house.)

      21. Raw and pureed with fresh garlic and basil for a chilled summer soup.
      22. Tomato Fact # 12: Tomatoes were once considered an aphrodisiac, thus the old name: "Love Apple."

      23. (From Pablo Neruda's "Ode to Tomatoes") " . . .happily, it is wed to the clear onion, and to celebrate the union we pour oil, essential child of the olive, onto its halved hemispheres, pepper adds its fragrance, salt, its magnetism; it is the wedding of the day, parsley hoists its flag, potatoes bubble vigorously, the aroma of the roast knocks at the door, it's time! come on! and, on the table, at the midpoint of summer, the tomato, star of earth, recurrent and fertile star, displays its convolutions, its canals, its remarkable amplitude and abundance, no pit, no husk, no leaves or thorns, the tomato offers its gift of fiery color and cool completeness."

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