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Aug 29, 2008 01:00 AM

Let's talk about tomatoes

Since it is peak tomato season here in the U.S., I am trying new varieties, like Black Prince and Asian Pear. (thanks Gooseberry)

I love fresh tomatoes in salsas, sauces, salads, on sandwiches, or fried (green ones, that is). I am crazy loco for Butter Chicken sauce, or Chicken Tikka Masala sauce (is the only difference the butter?)

I was wondering:

a. which tomato varieties do you like for which foods/purposes?

b. whether you'd actually prefer canned tomatoes for certain purposes?

c. are San Marzano tomatoes in a can better than fresh tomatoes? (the reason I ask is that some people seem to worship them!)

d. how do you like to prepare tomatoes? favorite sauces, cheese combinations, herbs?

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  1. I just came in from the garden with my first arm full of tomatoes. Sliced tomatoe, parm cheese & black olive omlette fro breakfast.

    12 Replies
    1. re: Passadumkeg

      Does that mean that tomatoes don't ripen until late August in Maine?

      1. re: FoodFuser

        Tough summer, wet & cold. I was worried we would get no red tomatoes. Our growing season, traditionally is Memorial Day through Labor Day. Chance of frost, earlier or later. One year we gt up to go to school and saw our tomato patch covered w/ snow. Lots of tomato sauce that year. Bumper year for cabbages and acorn squash, though. Potatoes drowned and rotted in the ground. :0(

        1. re: Passadumkeg

          We have been having the same issues in Montreal. We have not had enough heat and sun to ripen our rooftop tomatoes (where they are about as exposed to sun as you can get!) some of our tomatoes are rotting before completely ripening. We got one big harvest, well, big enough to make a tomato salad for 5 people. It was marvelous! But since then, only a few tomatoes get ripe at a time. Our roof top radishes were terrible this year, and our swiss chard is spindly. Oh well.

          1. re: moh

            I have cherry tomatoes in containers on my deck (SE facing, full sun) and they only started ripening mid-August here in Calgary and I'm still getting new ones now... one plant showed green fruit 2 weeks ago and those are just ripening now. Temps this week have been +4C at night and +15/17 highs... and not a whole lot of sun. I count myself lucky though, Kananaskis (about 40 min west) has already seen snow. :)

            1. re: maplesugar

              Hope the snow holds off Maplesugar!

              Small disaster here- our brandywines are suffering from blossom-end rot :( We can salvage the odd tomato, but many are falling victim to this scourge...

            2. re: moh

              Opposite problem in Houston. I planted in containers early August, facing south, and lost some blooms from too much heat, but fruit has been setting last 10 days. The hurricane and a cool front cooled things off. These are on my patio, had a good summer crop planted in March. These are my first attempts at growing on a patio since I sold the house, always had a big veggie garden, corn, green beans, potatoes, onion, okra, tomatoes. The only thing I miss from that house is my garden.

              1. re: James Cristinian

                Planting containers in August???? Aghh! There is major envy happening here, we are settling down for a long hard winter, no nice tomatoes for another year... hope your harvest goes well!

            3. re: Passadumkeg

              I envy the cabbages . Here in Oklahoma we get great tomatoes/peppers/eggplant during a long season, but cabbages are a race against the summer heat.

              As Robert Frost almost said in "Birches": "One can do worse than be a slinger and canner of frost-killed tomatoes".

              1. re: FoodFuser

                As a kid I was "a swinger of birches". We now have 14 big ones in our front yard. I also took the road less traveled and when kayaking in fog think of Sandberg's fog on cat's paws.
                We also have a root section in the garden w/ lots of beats, turnips, kohlrabi and rutabagas. Leeks, we bank and live till 10 degrees and harvest for Thanksgiving.

            4. re: FoodFuser

              In northern climates it is important for plants to be established in May, because they will advance rapidly until mid July wen they settle into maturity. A spurt unlike anything further S., because there are more lumens per day in early summer.

              1. re: FoodFuser

                I live in Iowa, and it was a late year for tomatoes, though not quite as late as Passa's. All the rain and odd weather. Everything seems to be ripening late this year. The apples are just starting to get sweet. The peaches are done, unfortunately :(

            5. a. I don't know anything about varieties of tomatoes. I just look for local and in season if possible. We get very good ones in south east England. I usually find that the baby plum tomatoes we get (often from Italy) are wonderful.

              b. I do prefer canned tomatoes much of the time for my pasta sauces. They often have more flavor than fresh, particularly if fresh are out of season.

              c. I don't have enough experience with San Marzanos to give a definitive answer. The ones I have eaten have been very good, but I've had other canned tomatoes that were equally good. Otherwise, same answer as b.

              d. good fresh tomatoes are wonderful with very little done to them. A bit of olive oil, salt, and a piece of bread are perfect accompaniements. I also think they go really well with hummous. Sometimes I make a fresh tomato sauce if I need to use up a bunch of really good fresh tomatoes. Chop them up, add a tiny bit of garlic, some oil, salt, pepper or chilli, parsley or basil. Toss with warm pasta.

              1. Alkapal:

                "b. whether you'd actually prefer canned tomatoes for certain purposes?"

                A BLT in February, with a canned whole tomato that has been seeded and unfolded flat, twixt the baco' and the mayo: heaven in winter.

                2 Replies
                1. re: FoodFuser

                  foodfuser, that's a tip i'm gonna tuck into my hat. thanks! favorite brand?

                  1. re: alkapal

                    Home canned "Better Boy" variety. John Muir for storebought.

                2. d. how do you like to prepare tomatoes? favorite sauces, cheese combinations, herbs?

                  Tomatoes and scrambled eggs.
                  This to me is like the Chinese equivalent of American Mac N Cheese.

                  1. How are tomatoes and scrambled eggs "Chinese"? Scrambled eggs aren't exclusively Chinese and tomatoes aren't exclusively Chinese -- in fact, they originated in the Americas so they aren't "authentic" Chinese at all! [note tongue firmly planted in cheek]

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      Never said tomatoes and scrambled eggs were Chinese. Merely that that dish is the Chinese equivalent of what most American consider Mac N Cheese to be -- i.e., basic comfort food.

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        Now I'm really confused! How can it be the "Chinese equivalent" of something if it's not Chinese? Why are you specifying that it's "Chinese comfort food" rather than just "comfort food"?

                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                          Despite the ingredients being of non-Chinese origin, the dish is popular enough in China to be considered "comfort food" by many Chinese folks. The designation "Chinese" refers to the people who like that dish and NOT the ingredients themselves.

                          It's the equivalent of saying that mac 'n cheese is "American comfort food." The macaroni and cheese are both not American in origin, and I'm sure other places in the world have this dish. But the dish is popular enough in the U.S. to the extent that it is identified as a distinctly "American comfort food."