I've been growing tomatoes for the last eighteen years. In that time I've tried probably 30 some different verities and always roma's or plum tomatoes as they are known. No matter the year we have grown Roma's and then the others. We started canning tomatoes about eighteen years ago and we had very little store bought tomatoes since then.
We started to get into heirloom tomatoes when we moved to our current house and had space. It has been an education every year, sometimes good sometimes not so memerable. This year the German Queen heirloom was great. the taste, size, and texture was better than the rest. They made great tomatoes for Tom's Tomatoes.
Tom's Tomatoes were an appetizer at the old Palmer House restaurant in downtown Baltimore City. It was a simple yet tasty dish that Tom one of the owners created. He would take the freshest, ripest slicing tomato and shave hard rigotta cheese on top. Then drizzle that with olive oil, salt, pepper and red wine vinegar, basil and oregano. It was a great dish that I still make for guests.
Tom's tomatoes are a seasonal treat because it does not translate well using canned tomatoes. Much like the home made sausage it is one of those things that leaves you wanting more due to its absence. It is this time of year when the weather starts to turn and you start seeing your breath in the morning. I look longingly at the last of this year’s tomato crop. The cold nights are taking its toll; tomatoes are part of the nightshade family so cold nights are not conducive to its health.
I always stretch the last couple of plants out as far as I can. They slow down and eventually stop producing and the tomatoes on the vine stop reddening and the leaves curl trying to stay warm. I feel bad like I am torturing the thing because it is only for my own selfish pleasure. I treat them well from the time they are planted, I don't ask for much just one more tomato.
Work has already begun for next year's tomatoes. I am cleaning and saving the seeds from a couple of the German Queens and will start them indoors in March. We always plant Roma's we have lots of customers that have bought them by the bushel for years. Now though, we have a following that have already asked for the Queens next year so I know I'm not the only one that really liked them. They are low in acid, sweet tasting, thin skin and small seed pods leaving a lot of flesh to nibble on. The biggest one weighed in at one pound and twelve ounces. It was bigger than my hand and stuck out on the edges of sliced bread when eatan as a sandwich.
As the leaves turn and all the gardens are put to bed the saddest thought is that I will not be able to walk outside, grab a tomato off the vine and eat it right there. We'll make sauce, chili, stews and pizzas from the canned tomatoes but it won't be the same. It seems year after year I lament the loss of my fresh tomatoes.
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