Red tomato blues


It was all going so well, wasn’t it? June was an absolute delight — nary a day when the temps rose above 90º, with soothing rains that brought cool breezes. Humidity was low, mosquitos were non-existent. It was like the summer of my dreams, one that provoked a declaration to friends that I think I’ve been converted into a lover-of-summer, and then their response of a disbelieving raised eyebrow, since they know me so well.

And then, just like that, overnight even, I was transported back to the summer of my youth. The one that sits thick outside the back door my kids never remember to shut (welcoming the fly that is currently, this very moment, buzzing around my head). The summer that sucks your breath like one of those Death-Eaters in Harry Potter. The drought-infused heat that stunts growth and ripening in our garden, causing all the green tomatoes on our vines to just sit, stubbornly, refusing to blush. And I can’t say I blame them — I’m finding new ways to reserve unnecessary energy too.

I want summer recipes, but haven’t wanted to buy tomatoes — I mean, that’s why we planted so many, right? Though after walking by a community garden this morning, and holding onto the chain-link fence as I stared longingly at some juicy red specimens (guess they got theirs in the ground before we did?), I might break down, swallow my self-sufficient pride, and bring some home from the farmer’s market this Saturday.

We were at dinner the other night at Room Four (which, by the way, was most excellent — and I would write a stellar review except that now I’m afraid I’ll curse the place, having written a recent stellar review of another new restaurant in town only to hear of a friend having a lousy experience there the next week). Chef Greg Hardesty was able to chat a bit, as the other half of the restaurant, Recess, was closed for the night. I was asking him about my failed attempts to recreate the amazing chicken liver mousse we had at Recess last winter, and he went to fetch the cookbook that lent inspiration for the dish. As I read the recipe, he offered to just let me take the book home for a few days, adding as an afterthought that he “wouldn’t buy any more produce from my husband’s farm” (i.e., the Butler Campus Farm) until we brought it back.

The cookbook is big, and stunning, and way over my head (obscure ingredients, required mandolines and the like). But I sat last night, salivating over each and every tomato recipe. A yellow tomato tart, tomato trifle, tomato tartare, fresh tomato soup. All of the photos showcasing the brightest red of red specimens, and it’s all I can do not to start scraping at the page with my nails, my brain tricked by the mirage.

I find myself constantly craving acid. Not the hallucinogenic kind, but anything edible and tart, in that sharp, pungent way. I eat pickled things, but in the end they aren’t quite sweet enough. Aren’t fresh enough. Aren’t tomato enough.

Come on, summer, don’t be stingy. Give us tomatoes, they are currently your one saving grace.




17 thoughts on “Red tomato blues

  1. I just, about an hour ago, ate the first handful of cherry tomatoes from my garden. They were the sweetest tomatoes I’ve ever tasted. Also, they had the thickest, chewiest skins I’ve ever seen on a tomato. According to Google, that’s what this heat+dryness does Hopefully we’ll get rain before your tomatoes decide to turn red, and you won’t have the same thick-skin problem!

  2. That’s funny – we are just readying a post about our first cherry tomato harvest. The few that were turning red before the drought ripened up nicely – but now I feel like a tease!

    I’m afraid that this is all my fault, too – I got that rain barrel installed on the 8th and it hasn’t rained a drop since!

    1. I kind of think we’re all jinxing it, in some way — like we’ve accidentally hit replay on last summer (it is eerily similar, yes?).

      On rain barrel disasters: this weekend Tim left the spigot open on ours, while filling up a large bucket. He walked off and forgot it, and every single drop of rainwater was wasted on the dry dirt below : (

  3. Hear, hear. Our tomato plants sit down in the community garden, laden with uncountable green fruits that just – won’t – turn.

    I sit in the house really grouchy because it’s as muggy inside as it is out.

    And I am still in envy of all your good restaurant options.

    Aren’t I just a ray of sunshine?!?

      1. Ah, so you know my grouchiness is also due to a not-sleeping baby. Not a good combination with the hot!

        Nope, no A.C. But – we’re in the mountains. So it’s usually alright. Just not today. Or tomorrow, probably.

  4. My kitchen is full of tomatoes. I would love to share with you. The skins are a little tough and they have started to crack open in places but they are red and yellow. Maybe yours will turn soon. 🙂

    1. If not, I’ll be pickling an embarrassing quantity of green tomatoes.

      Please tell me you have canning plans for yours?

      1. I froze some yesterday. I have plans for a tomato pie this weekend. I have grown weary of the garden. I am looking forward to picking peaches and apples. For once in my life I am ready for fall (but NOT winter).

  5. It’s so bizarre to me how so many of us who live within miles of each other have tomatoes in different stages of growth. My Romas have been producing steadily – though not prolifically (I just now have enough to make a small batch of sauce to feed us). Same with my cherry tomatoes. The slicers haven’t turned yet, but I don’t think I’ve ever had slicers from my own garden this early. Is it when we plant? Where we get our plants from (all of mine are heirloom plants from Bloomington)? Weird garden karma?

    Here’s hoping for some rain, a cool stretch (is 89 too much to ask?), and red tomatoes.

  6. Tomatoes love this heat and sun, so I bet you’ll see some turning soon. I have only had 1 little currant and 1 grape tomato so far. But have HUNDREDS more out there green and HUNDREDS more little flowers. Next month we’ll be singing the “my feet hurt from standing in the kitchen canning” blues. 🙂

  7. If it makes you feel any better, no one down here seems to be having any luch with tomatoes, either. Very hot and no rain.

    And forgive my nerdiness, but Death Eaters don’t such out your breath, they are just jerks who follow Voldemort. Dementors look like they are sucking out your breath, but they are really sucking out your soul. That said, I am fairly certain that all aforementioned groups hate home gardening and love HFCS.

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