28 Sep Food by Letter – T is for Tomato
Ready for a HUGE BLT? The heaviest tomato on record weighed in at 7 lb 12 oz and was grown by G. Graham in 1986, in Oklahoma! We’re celebrating this incredibly popular, savory, juicy, summer staple…after all, there’s just something magical about a perfectly ripe tomato. The tomato’s history has origins traced back to the early Aztecs around 700 A.D. It was not until around the 16th century that Europeans were introduced to this fruit when the early explorers set sail to discover new lands. During Colonial Times, we wouldn’t put a tomato near our mouths, let alone try to eat one. Folklore had it that if you ate a tomato, its poison would turn your blood into acid! Instead, the colonists grew tomatoes purely for decoration (what a shame).
Despite its ill-deserved bad reputation, the taste of the tomato eventually won over the American public. It also may have gotten a big boost from a seemingly unlikely source: Thomas Jefferson. It’s likely that Jefferson grew tomatoes and his daughters and granddaughters used them in numerous recipes including gumbo soups. The Jefferson women also pickled them and promoted their use in cooking. What Jefferson and his family helped start, Joseph Campbell (of Campbell’s soup fame) finished. The tomato’s popularity made steady progress through the 19th century, and by the 1870s, seed catalogs often offered several varieties of tomatoes. When Campbell came out with condensed tomato soup in 1897, the tomato had secured a firm hold in American culinary history.
Today, the tomato is the most popular vegetable in America and is enjoyed by millions all over the world. There are over 10,000 varieties of tomato, and these come in a variety of colors including pink, purple, black, yellow, and white. Learn your beefsteaks from your brandy wines with this simple guide:
- Beefsteak: Large and meaty, this smooth red fruit is an excellent all-purpose tomato. Layer with mozzarella for a classic Caprese, or slice and sandwich with bacon and lettuce for a mouth-watering BLT.
- Cherokee Purple: This heirloom tomato is prized for its rich color and concentrated sweetness. The medium fruit is a deep reddish-pink with green “shoulders” (the area around the stem). Slice, drizzle with olive oil and top with flaky salt.
- Plum: You’ll find this oblong variety in most cans of whole peeled tomatoes. Because they’re fleshy and don’t have too many seeds, they’re great for cooking. Try them slow-roasted or simmered into a sauce.
- Green Zebra: Named for its green-on-green striped exterior, it’s slightly more acidic than other varieties, making it a nice sidekick to salty cheeses.
- Cherry: While all tomatoes are best in summer, cherry tomatoes can be flavorful year-round. In August and September, look for super sweet varieties, like Sungold and Sweet 100. These are delicious for snacking on their own or tossing into salads.
- Brandywine: Big and broad, this reddish-pink tomato is the most recognizable of the heirlooms. With its firm texture and balanced sweet acidity, it’s ideal alongside boldly flavored grilled steaks or pork chops.
Celebrate the last warm(ish) days of the year with an ode to outdoor dining! Heirloom tomatoes, peaches, and fresh mozzarella are layered and topped with a simple balsamic vinaigrette in this peach Caprese salad, recipe via Allrecipes.com
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp flaked salt, divided
- 2 large heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced
- 2 ripe peaches – halved, pitted, and sliced into half-moons
- 6 leaves fresh basil
- 1 (8 oz) ball fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
- Whisk olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and 1 pinch of flaked salt together in a bowl until the dressing is smooth.
Alternate tomato slices, peach slices, basil leaves, and mozzarella slices in layers on a platter. Drizzle dressing over salad and sprinkle remaining flaked salt on top.