The First Tomato

Today’s post comes from Verily Sherrilee

My first tomato of the season! It’s small – a variety of grape tomato known as the Santa.  I noticed it starting to turn a couple of days ago and was hoping some critter didn’t get to it before it was perfectly red and ready.  There it was last night when I got home; it didn’t even make it into the house before I had popped it in my mouth. I try not to say “OMG” too much but OMG!

I’ve always loved tomatoes. I love big fat tomato slices on open-faced cheese sandwiches. I love little tiny tomatoes in pasta salad.  Chunks of tomato with orzo and basil.  Salsa with tomatillos.  Spaghetti w/ tomatoes, olive oil and spinach. Bruschetta with diced tomatoes and garlic.  Hardly a way you can make something with tomatoes that I don’t like.

FirstTomato2

For many years I tried, unsuccessfully, to grow my own. The garden plot was decimated by dogs; the “hanging” contraption was too heavy and kept falling over.  Plants just never grew in big pots.  It was so demoralizing that for many years, I didn’t even try.  Then, thanks to someone mentioning it on the Trail, I read Tomatoland by Barry Estabrook, an exposé on the tomato industry.  It was horrifying and I came away from the book with a new determination to grow my own tomatoes.  It was this determination that led me to straw bale gardening – finally a way to have my own home-grown tomatoes.

I know I’m probably not saving any money by growing my own (cost of bales, cost of water, cost of seedlings, etc.) but I do love picking a tomato, taking in the house and eating it for dinner. There is nothing like it in my book!

What summer produce can you hardly wait for?

92 thoughts on “The First Tomato”

      1. First fresh meal of every summer as a child: baby potatoes and fresh peas in cream sauce. Second meal: baby potatoes in butter.

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        1. I was the stereotypical little boy who had to be bribed or forced to eat my vegetables. Cream sauce covered the taste for me for things like carrots and beans and I mean with real cream. But potatoes and peas did not require bribery. But fresh cream in the sauce–nothing has ever matched that since. We did as kids eat turnips raw and pretend it was ice cream cones..

          Liked by 2 people

  1. It’s hard to beat a home-grown tomato. However, I remember my parents huge garden as a child with all the raspberry brambles, and there is nothing to compare to fresh raspberries off the plant, warm from the sun and wet with dew, plopped on top of your morning cereal. Man, do I ever miss that!

    I got lazy this year and didn’t even put out my Earth Boxes with tomatoes on my townhome sidewalk. But we got a big surprise — several tomato plants are growing through landscape gravel where I placed my Earth Boxes last year. Thank God for heirloom tomatoes! So we rescued them and quickly put them in planters. They’re tiny, so I might pull out the Earth Boxes anyway and make the best of it.

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    1. Young Adult and I are both shameless about picking the raspberries off our canes and eating them right there, next to the hose! There are enough ripening berries out there now that some might make it into a bowl w/ cream, but we’ll have to see!

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  2. Our raspberries are prouducing heavily now. We have picked about 20 cups thus far. I freeze them on cookie sheets and then seal them with our Food Saver. I think the next ones will go in a pie.

    We didn’ t get our garden in until June so everything is late. This weekend i will make spinach cheese pie as the slinach is finally ready. We always look forward to that.

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    1. Oh man, I am so jealous! If I could, I would speed over there right now and take some of those excessive raspberries off your hands! Although, really … there is no such thing as “excessive” raspberries. 🙂

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      1. We have very fat robins in our yard, as they have been feasting on berries, too. I figure we have enough to share. You would be welcome to share, with us, too, and i bet you are more fun than those darn birds, Joanne.

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        1. In the backyard of one of my family’s homes in the 1950s we had a huge mulberry tree. By “huge” I mean two stories high. Robins ate ripe mulberries in such quantities that they got the trots. Consequently, everything in our yard was coated with purple robin poop.

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        2. Oh, Linda, when I spent a year in Knoxville, IA, southeast of Ames, on my psychology intership, there were mulberry trees there, and the sidewalks were splattered with very large purple splotches of bird dirt. Regular bird dirt pales in size and color compared to mulberry birdbird dirt.

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        3. Agreed. When I was in 3rd and 4th grade, we had a huge muiberry tree at the back of our yard. They make a big mess and then the birds make an even bigger mess!

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        4. Some years ago we had a mulberry tree in our side yard, a volunteer that grew very large and produced a lot of berries. And yes, the bird poop was very noticeable because of its color, but I didn’t observe it to be different otherwise from other bird poop. I liked the mulberries, but the birds got the lion’s share of them.

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        5. Sorry, I lost track of this discussion. Bird poop is usually innocuous. It is white and has a shape. Robin mulberry diarrhea is something else, both in color and character. Renee is exactly right.

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  3. Asparagus. I love roasted asparagus and asparagus pizza.

    This year the strawberries at the farmers market were especially luscious – dead ripe, juicy, red all through.

    Raspberries and black currants – I grow them myself because I like them so much and because they are so dang expensive at the farmers market (or anywhere else). In the case of black currants, I’ve never seen them at the market.

    Rhubarb, mainly because it means it’s spring….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We started an asparagus bed once, but our first Welsh Terrier dug up all the plants and ate them. She also nibbled gooseberries off the bushes. She was a weird dog.

      Husband has gout and can’t have very much asparagus (or beer or chick peas or shell fish).

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      1. I get my asparagus from the farmers market. Between the herb bed and the berries, there’s not much room for asparagus in the yard

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    2. Last week the they had both red and black currants at our little local farmer’s market. But you’re right, they are pricey.

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  4. I know, by reading my father’s memoir why my family didn’t plant a garden. My dad learned to hate gardening when he was a kid, and he never got over it. We didn’t even plant tomatoes.

    But there were berries on the land my family owned overlooking Lake Superior there were berries. Seven species of berries grew on our two acres. The berries peaked at about the time of my birthday in mid-June.

    My daughter, accompanied by our first English setter, picked berries each year. It was curious to watch. Molly fashioned a little tin foil bucket with a rope so she could hang it under Spook’s collar. Spook patiently followed her through berry patches. Molly put picked berries in this tin foil thing. Spook ordinarily paid no attention to berries, but when they were picking them he delicately grazed on them. He was a fastidious eater. Something about berries (probably the hairs) bothered Spook, and he developed a curious way of using his lips to free the berries he ate.

    All the berries Spook or Molly didn’t eat went into pastries with berry fillings. Molly would usually serve them to me as a birthday treat. The pastries were rock hard and the fillings weren’t much more edible. But, you know, it was the thought that counted.

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  5. Mid July to end of August the wood stove ran hot all day wit the canning. I have told before how I hated picking wild strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, pincherries, choke cherries. But how the basement shelves became full. How my mother worked.
    Our new retiree from Northfield needs to put up Grandma Put It All in Jars.

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      1. i learned this song off his original album recorded at the riverside cafe back in the days. i lost the album and never hear it anymore but found it here. i love this version. it is greg brown at his best

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  6. You and me, Sherrilee,

    Tomatoes and more tomatoes. Like you said, fresh off the vine and pop the small ones like cherries without the pits.

    Three things that make suffering through the worst Minnesota winters are fresh tomatoes, strawberries, and corn on the cob. Summer eating doesn’t get much better than this anywhere.

    Chris in Owatonna

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  7. Tomatoes and asparagus are at the top of my list of favorite garden vegetables. However, any kind of vegetable fresh from the garden is a treat. Lettuce and other salad greens are also very highly valued because a large serving of these greens from the garden is found on our dinner table more often then any other vegetable when they are available.

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  8. The first new potatoes, the first locally grown tomatoes and corn are irresistible.

    One on my fondest memories from my childhood is “graduating” from 1st grade with straight As. Dad was so proud of me, and hand in hand we walked down to Kjørups – the local deli – to buy the toppings for my favorite open faced sandwiches to bring on my class picnic. A locally grown, fresh tomato and some mackerel salad. I was in hog heaven! Now that I think about it, it may have been the best day of my life. Just doesn’t get any better than that.

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  9. i love corn tomatoes asparagus and berries cucumbers and some other things but have never grown any of them. my folks never had a garden when i was little maybe a small group of marigolds and pansies but never veggies. i tried but traveled too much s everyting always died.
    i planted raspberries but had minimal success with them. i found blackberries on my walks this year and have enjoyed them fo rht e alst two weeks, i believe i got the last berries last night as they have played out. they look like blackberries but i dont know my berries. geeze they are good. i found a new trick this year. as the berries sit in the bowl drying out after a couple of days i feel bad for not eating them before they turned well last week i fhrew a chunk of peach in there bought at trader joes. geeze i love peaches. well the peach does the same thing to berries that sugar does to strawberries. it is like a synergistic miricle. better for both fruits . i recommend it.

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  10. I don’t grow very much. I have four tomato plants this year. Other stuff I would just as soon buy at the farmers market – that way I don’t have a bunch of crops that come in all at once and have to be dealt with or they’ll spoil. Tomatoes are easy to grow, and they usually ripen a few at a time, at a relaxed pace so you can keep up with them. Or throw them into the freezer whole.

    And of course I have the raspberries, and a few strawberry plants.

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  11. When I was a child, in the fifties in suburbia, almost nobody had a garden. Those who did tended to be condescendingly looked upon as irremediably rustic. The ideal at that time was for groomed and unbroken lawns. We had a small garden, tomatoes mostly, but we were distinctly the exception. A lot of the food prepared by my mother and by my friend’s mothers was heavily dependent on new “convenience” foods. Vegetables, for the most part, came out of a can, with the exception of frozen corn or peas and those were mostly brought out for special occasions. My mother canned, but that was limited to tomatoes, peaches and pears. (You could get much better quality peaches in lugs quite reasonably back then. What happened?)

    I used to accompany my father on weekends to the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market. As far as I know that was the only market- there were no neighborhood markets. In the mid-fifties, the Minneapolis market was large, with half a dozen or so canopied rows. Then in the sixties, the farmer’s market began to shrink and at its lowest ebb I think it was down to about two rows and some of the empty ones had been dismantled. It looked like the Farmer’s Market’s days were numbered.

    I can’t say for sure when or why the markets began to grow again. I’d like to attribute it in part to the back to the land and communal movements of the late sixties and seventies. It likely was also a reflection of the shift away from convenience foods and the renewed appreciation of fresh unprocessed foods. Imagine: there was a time when the farmer’s market seemed close to extinction.

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    1. I remember going to the Mpls Farmer’s Market as a kid – it was really the only game in town then (early-mid 70s). St. Paul probably had theirs, too, but definitely no neighborhood based ones. I remember stopping at roadside stands on the way to and from places like the Arboretum (back when a lot of that part of the near environs was still farmland and not suburban sprawl).

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  12. In Stubbekøbing our vegetable garden was large. Lots of potatoes, kale, tomatoes, carrots, beets, celery root, radishes, lettuce, chives, parsley and other herbs. We also had a large cherry tree, a pear tree, a plum tree, several berry bushes, and a couple of apple trees. When we moved to Lyngby the garden shrank, but still included a pear tree, a plum tree, and a couple of apple trees. Again, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, kale, radishes, lettuces and lots of herbs. I remember introducing a mint plant. Dad wasn’t pleased. Oh, and we always had rhubarb and strawberries.

    Everyone we knew had vegetable gardens, and although ours was by no means exceptional, we were pretty self-sufficient in vegetables during the growing season, and actually, far beyond. We had a root cellar, and potatoes, carrots, celery root and other root vegetables were stored there along with mother’s canned goods.

    The variety of vegetables was far less exotic than it is today. I had never seen, or even heard of eggplant, zucchini or even broccoli before I arrived in the US. Now they are all pretty commonplace.

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    1. id say that is the equivilant to the best garden ever in a us back yard
      i was interested in the garden sheds out by the rail road tracks in euroe where people go i suspect for the brothherhood similar to ice fishing here and spend lots of time with other gardeners

      i had a good german family i have written about before with tomatoes raspberries and chokecherries as their staples. a salt shaker and a bowl of sguare was common place when tomatoes were in season to do the age old test of how you like your tomato better with salt or sugar

      ill bet they had 100 rasberry bushes and strawberries too come to think of it . they ended up selling the gardens and letting a house be built out back then another on the side. then they sold their house. only home garden i ever knew

      Liked by 1 person

    1. id say that is the equivilant to the best garden ever in a us back yard
      i was interested in the garden sheds out by the rail road tracks in euroe where people go i suspect for the brothherhood similar to ice fishing here and spend lots of time with other gardeners

      i had a good german family i have written about before with tomatoes raspberries and chokecherries as their staples. a salt shaker and a bowl of sguare was common place when tomatoes were in season to do the age old test of how you like your tomato better with salt or sugar

      ill bet they had 100 rasberry bushes and strawberries too come to think of it . they ended up selling the gardens and letting a house be built out back then another on the side. then they sold their house. only home garden i ever knew

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  13. corn was way higher than knee high on the 4th of july and it is only 10 days after. late spring but i guess it must be the right weather to grow corn

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    1. The idea corn should be knee high by the 4th comes from an earlier era. It used to indicate that a new corn crop was doing well. Now, mostly because farmers plant fast-growing hybrid strains of corn, a crop only knee high on Independence Day is a sign of failure. Modern corn strains are chest-high by then, or higher.

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  14. My favorite childhood garden was Uncle Ejnar and Tante Ingeborg’s garden. They had fruit trees – apple, pears, and plums – and every kind of berry you could imagine, including gooseberries. Potatoes featured prominently in their garden, and unlike ours, the also had peas. But the best part was that they were the sweetest, gentlest “old” people I’ve ever met. I loved spending time in their garden, pulling weeds and keeping Tante Ingeborg company. I spent many a happy hour helping her shell peas as well.

    At the time I thought they were ancient, but looking back I realize that they must have been in their mid forties. Older than my parents, but certainly not old. Ejnar lived to be 99, and I visited him, still living in that old house by himself after Ingeborg passed away from a stroke at the age of 89. I wheeled him in his wheelchair down through the park where I spent so many hours as a kid. We met several people on the way who of course knew Ejnar and wanted to know who I was. He was proud as a peacock to tell them I was a visitor from America.

    Come to think of it, I had another favorite garden, the nuns’ garden at the boarding school in Nykøbing. It was huge. Had lots of fruit trees, berry bushes, and most exotic, a giant grape vine that climbed up a trellis along the wall of the school building. There was also an apricot tree, unfortunately I couldn’t reach it from the windows. One of my jobs at the school was cleaning one of the classrooms after classes were let out in the afternoon. That classroom’s windows provided access to those wonderful grapes if I hung out the windows as far as I could reach. There wasn’t a grape to be found within reach of any of those windows. I ate them all, and only got caught once.

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    1. I picture Mongo like the Pillsbury doughboy. I think he shows up on smart phones and won’t let you read your text messages until you poke him and he giggles. That’s got to be it. Any other explanation would be silly.

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  15. Will you all still like me if I admit that I am not a fan of fresh tomatoes? I have tried, eaten a variety in a variety of different ways…but they just don’t float my boat.

    What I do miss, though, from my childhood, is the crabapple jelly my mom used to make. She had a friend with a giant crabapple tree and would go pick buckets of them and then spend the afternoon grinding and boiling and sieving and who all knows what creating a beautiful translucent jelly. Mmm. My mouth is watering just thinking of it with some butter on fresh baked bread…

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    1. I think you’re just fine! I don’t like eggplant and I know lots of people who think that’s outside the pale!

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    2. I don’t know what this tells you about me, but when I was a student at the University of Minnesota and living in a small apartment on the west bank, I noticed on campus a crabapple tree loaded with fruit. These were the variety that are deep red and whose skins impart a bright red color when crushed. I went over on campus late one night, climbed up into the tree and picked bags of crabapples and, back at the apartment, made a batch of crabapple jelly. There was also a mulberry tree right across Cedar Avenue from our apartment and I once picked enough mulberries to make a pie. Mulberries don’t make the greatest pie. It’s not exactly the way you picture scruffy young guys on the West Bank in the late sixties, is it?

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  16. Here’s a different sort of wild fruit story. In my Match.com years I dated a woman who had survived a difficult financial moment in the 1990s. Her money problems were so severe her electricity was cut off. She and I used to walk in the off-leash dog park below Minnehaha Falls. One day she pointed out a clump of raspberry canes growing in the park. She told me she used to pick those raspberries as a way of putting food on the table when she couldn’t buy food in stores.

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    1. Bless your prolific writer’s heart, Renee. How do you find the spirit and the inspiration? I feel as if it’s near the end of the trail for me. Watching a little of GOP convention just put me over the edge.

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