Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Most of the year i use canned tomatoes at home. as consumers we have become accustomed to being able to walk into a grocery store in December and buy tomatoes. in tern my thought is that we actually have forgotten, or have never been aware of what a ripe, fresh picked tomato is supposed to look, smell, and taste like. most of the year tomatoes come from as far away as Mexico, and South America, as they have the only climate that will support the growing of them in the off season. the problems with that are many. tomatoes dont travel well, so they are forced to be picked very early on and then gassed to promote them to take some sort of color. if you have ever picked a really ripe tomato and then tried to keep in for even a few days it deteriorates very quickly. it is also a huge waste of energy in growing and transporting. when i see someone in the store in the winter buying organic tomatoes i laugh to myself. they have been brainwashed into thinking if it is badged "ORGANIC" then it is somehow okay to not eat locally, or even seasonally. if you grow your own tomatoes, or know someone who does you know exactly what i am talking about. the ripe tomato only really exists for a month and half out of the year in my neck of the woods. we are rapidly approaching the end of them.

like i mentioned i have a stash of canned tomatoes, sun-dried, and tomato paste on hand all the time. canned tomatoes are canned in the peak of their season and i will take that over out of season, from 3000 miles away any day. they dont freeze well at all, but i know of some people that have had some luck doing home drying with them. i have even had a bit of luck smoking them. any of the ways you attempt to preserve them they just wont turn out the same as fresh, off of the vine, tomatoes. in turn i feel like we are doing a dis-service to nature by not eating them in huge amounts this time of year.

there are hundreds of types of tomatoes and i thought i would at least attempt to clarify some of the terms you can expect to see in stores and on menus.

pear/cherry/grape- these small tomatoes are named after their fruit shaped cousins. they are very sweet and wonderful in salads, but their seed to skin ratio makes them less than ideal for soups and sauces. this time of year i am able to find them in orange, red, and yellow colors.

roma- a roma is a oblong shaped, small ball sized tomato. there are many different varieties but all of them are great for saucing, and slicing. the roma is held in relatively high esteem in restaurants as well because they are the most consistent tomato available throughout the year.

utility- utility tomatoes are often packed in different sizes without much consistency. they are less expensive for it and great for chopping, and saucing.

hot house- any time you see the term hot house it means that the product has been grown to be the prettiest possible. bell peppers are often labeled hot house. these tomatoes should all be close to the same size, and relatively "pretty"

beefsteak- beefsteak tomatoes like hot house should be large and blemish free. great for slicing over sandwiches and burgers.

heirloom- as i mentioned last week this can mean so much. with tomatoes it means they wont be pretty, and are usually best eaten raw with a touch of salt. there are hundreds of varieties in all sorts of shapes, colors, and sizes.

concasse- a concasse is when you score a tomato with an X in the bottom of it and then blanch it in boiling water, then shock it in ice water, and then peel and remove all of the seeds, then cut it very fine. it is usually done with roma tomatoes, but can be done with any type. the thought here is that the seeds of a tomato arent digestible (i watched a online video of the San Francisco water treatment facility once and there were the most gorgeous tomatoes growing inside it. hot, humid, really good soil, good stuff) and the skin never really breaks down with cooking, so you eliminate all the bad stuff and just get pure essence of tomato. i serve it at work in a sauce called "piccata" over a piece of local snapper. it takes me about 30 minutes to concasse and brunoise 30 tomatoes. a true pain, especially when you start with 30 tomatoes and end with two cups of product.

on the vine- as far as i am concerned this is a marketing gimic. regardless of the fact they are attached to some of the vine they still arent attached to the ground. the amount of nutrients that can be stored in the vine are very limited so this approach works for about 15 minutes after they are picked. they will likely be the most expensive at your grocery store.

buy 4#'s of roma tomatoes and cut the vine end off, then quarter them. peel a whole head of garlic, and toss all of it together with some olive oil and salt. place on a sheet pan and roast at 450 degrees until they turn golden brown. pull the tomatoes out of the oven, allow to cool for 10 minutes then puree with a handful of fresh basil and a touch of balsamic vinegar. a perfect sauce in a hustle for a pizza, or pasta. with a touch of cream you even have a pretty good soup.

You dont have much longer to enjoy the tomato as it was intended to be- fresh from the plant, picked that same day, and as plump and juicy as it could be.

No comments:

Post a Comment