8/8/2013 - Tomatoes atop a salad or sandwich add a touch of taste and color year round, but a warm tomato plucked fresh from the garden on a summer day begs to be eaten as is.
“A lot of people just buy them and eat them like an apple,” said Matt McQuesten of McQuesten Farm in Litchfield. “I would say this time of year, people are probably putting them on a cheeseburger. That seems to be the big thing that people always say.”
Tomato varieties include red tomatoes, plum tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and heirloom tomatoes.
The wide variety of tomatoes allows people to enjoy each for different reasons, he said.
“With your regular round tomato, I think a lot of people just slice them up and eat them plain,” he said. “With plum tomatoes, a lot of people come here to pick their own, and they’re more meaty, and that becomes good for making sauce and salsa. They’re thicker.”
According to Brett McKenzie, owner of McKenzie’s Farm in Milton, there are more unique ways to eat tomatoes too.
“A lot of people are making stuffed tomatoes, and they’ll cut out the core, stuff it with meat, cheese and rice — that’s a great way to use a tomato,” he said. “[Some people] just want tomato basil, and so they’ll put mozzarella and balsamic on it and eat it then. One of the things that I recommend for people who don’t like raw tomatoes [is to] cut up the tomatoes and throw it on a pizza you make. You’d be surprised the amazing flavor you can get from that.”
McKenzie also said that unlike other fruits and vegetables, a tomato’s ripeness isn’t crucial to its enjoyment, and its use can depend on personal preference.
“You can pick according to ripeness, and you want a deep red tomato if you want to eat it right now,” he said. “If you’re not going to use the tomato for a couple days, you may want to go with a light red, deep orange tomato.”
Some people even enjoy unripe tomatoes, and use them in making fried green tomatoes, McKenzie said.
“They’re really good. Anything fried, you can’t really ruin that,” he said. “ With green tomatoes you can make relish. There’s lots of [uses] for tomatoes.”
Right now, fresh tomatoes may be a bit harder to find than usual, as the crop is ripening behind schedule.
“It’s a very bad year for tomatoes,” McQuesten said. “It’s been damp and wet, and really really hot. The weather’s been up and down so much, [and] the tomatoes don’t like it.”
Tomatoes are generally ready to be picked in July, and the season usually winds down in September.
“June, as we all remember, was a really wet month, and for most fields growing tomatoes ... rain causes disease and a lot of issues [for the crops],” McKenzie said. “Our fields don’t look the best they’ve ever looked, but I think we’re going to be okay.”
Despite the weather’s impact, McKenzie said tomatoes will still be available, and they’ll still be popular.
“When it’s summer, it’s hot. You don’t want to cook. You want something fresh and light, and you do a lot of grilling,” he said. “The season is right now to buy [tomatoes].”