Tomatoes come in many colors, shapes and sizes

Published 8:34 am Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tomatoes are now arriving at the local farmers market in fairly abundant quantities. Because we are now into the third week of September, I would suggest that everyone who enjoys the wonderful flavor of locally grown garden tomatoes take advantage of this. Whether you are looking for only one or two slicing tomatoes, or if you need a quantity for salsa or canning, don’t wait too long, because tomatoes are one of the most frost sensitive plants in our gardens.

Tomatoes can be red, yellow, orange, pink, green (when ripe), white, and even striped. They range in size from very tiny cherry tomatoes, to the huge beefsteak type. The plants can be determinate, which means they grow to a certain size and then stop growing, or indeterminate, which means they will continue to grow larger throughout the life of the plant. Many of the tomato varieties are hybrid, and are bred to be resistant to certain tomato diseases. Other people prefer the heirloom type of tomatoes, which are more prone to disease, but which some people claim have better flavor. Yellow tomatoes are generally less acidic than the red.

I am not sure of the exact reason, but I have heard many people complain of their tomatoes not doing well this year. Early there were quite a few complaints about blossom end rot. Then the tomato blights hit. I suspect that the early unusually cool weather put the heat loving plants under a lot of stress, and made them more subject to disease.

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When making salsa or sauces, many people prefer the roma or plum type tomato, which is oval shaped and more fleshy, with less juice. For canned tomatoes or tomato juice, the regular type are best. When canning tomatoes now, the USDA recommmends adding 1 tablespoon lemon juice per pint and using hot water bath.

You probably have your own favorite ways to serve tomatoes, but here are a few recipes you may want to try:

Southern tomato pie

1 sheet refrigerated pie crust

6 Roma tomatoes cut 1/4 inch thick

Coarse salt

2 cup shredded mozzarella or Swiss cheese

Olive oil

1/3 cup minced fresh basil

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Place pie crust in a 9-1/2 inch pan and bake for 9 to 11 minutes. If crust puffs up, gently press down with wooden spoon. Cool crust and reduce oven heat to 375 degrees. Sprinkle tomatoes with salt, and place on paper towels to drain for 30 minutes. Pat dry. Sprinkle cheese in cooled pie crust and arrange tomatoes over cheese in an overlapping circular pattern, covering surface. Brush tomatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with basil and pepper. Bake 30-35 minutes. Let set 10 minutes before serving.

Tomato salsa

1 small onion

1/2 green pepper

Small bunch cilantro

3 minced garlic cloves

Chile pepper to taste

1 tablespoon honey

Salt to taste

1 3/4 pounds peeled, fresh tomatoes

Process all ingredients except tomatoes in a food processor. Add peeled tomatoes, processing again, and it’s ready to use. Keeps one week in refrigerator. Does not freeze well.

Green tomato oatmeal bars

4 cup finely chopped green tomatoes

2 cup brown sugar, packed

2 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon lemon extract

3/4 cup butter

1-1/2 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Combine tomatoes, 1 cup sugar and lemon juice. Simmer 15-20 minutes or until mixture is very thick. Remove from heat and add lemon extract. Set aside. Cream butter and other cup of sugar. Add remaining ingredients. Mix well. Press 2/3 of the crumbs into a buttered 13×9 pan. Top with tomato mixture. Sprinkle remaining crumbs on top. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes. Cool and cut into bars.

Some of you gardeners may end up with more green tomatoes than normal at the end of the season this year. If you want to salvage some of those tomatoes when a frost is predicted, you can pull the whole plant and hang it upside down in your garage or other protected area. The tomatoes will continue to ripen. Or you can pick the green tomatoes off the vine, and wrap them individually in newspapers, place them in a dark location, and wait for them to ripen. To hasten the ripening process, you can place a few ripe apples in the box with them. The flavor will not quite as good as garden ripened tomatoes, but probably much better than those from the store.

And for those of you who do not want to can tomatoes, you can very successfully freeze them. I scald them and slip off the skins, and then just package them in freezer bags or containers. Or you can wash them, and package them with the skins on, as after being frozen, the skins will slip off quite easily. These are great for hot dishes, soups, chili, etc., and much more flavorful than the grocery canned tomatoes.

If you are interested in dehydrating tomatoes, this is also another good way to preserve them for winter use.

The Farmers’ Market is still very active. We have even added a couple new vendors in the last few weeks. Fall items now are coming in, including pumpkins of all kinds, winter squash, decorative corn, gourds, etc. We also have many varieties of freshly picked local apples, including Honey Crisp, Mclntosh, Sweet Sixteen, Haralson, and lots more. Fall raspberries have been abundant, and of good quality this year, and huckleberries and groundcherries are available now. Other things available are potatoes, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, pepper of all kinds, radishes, lettuce, spinach, sweetcom, cucumbers, pears, dill and other herbs, carrots, kohlrabi, melons, beef, pork and elk meat, eggs, jams and jellies, honey, many home baked goods, and crafts.

Remember, the market is open through the end of October, each Wednesday from 4 to 6 p.m. and Saturday morning from 9 a.m. to noon.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9