What is that? Is that a day below 90 degrees? Who ever thought we would see such a thing again! It has happened; summer has entered the home stretch. Days grow shorter, temperatures are cooling somewhat, children are starting to cower in corners as they are inundated with back-to-school fears and parents who cannot help but smile. Alas, summer is nearing its end.
But, it is nowhere near the end for summer produce. In fact, it is prime time for some all time favorites amongst gardeners and cooks alike, including tomatoes, cucumbers, and of course, sweet corn.
The Five Points Community Farm Market, or Norfolk Farmers Market is currently boasting these greatest of summer treasures located at 2500 Church Street. The Market is open year round Wednesday through Friday 11 AM to 7 PM, Saturday 9 AM to 5 PM and Sunday 11 AM to 5 PM.
If there is one vegetable that even novice gardener’s plant, it is the tomato (one can barely help but enjoy a fresh, juicy tomato). This edible nightshade family member, of which egg plant, peppers, and potatoes are members of, is a vegetable many take for granted as they bite into that grilled burger or toss their summer salads. Not all tomatoes are created the same. Most of the tomatoes purchased at your mega-mart, although pretty on the outside, have a mushy texture and a flavor that can best be compared to that of cardboard, but it is really not nice to talk about cardboard in that way. Fresh garden tomatoes picked at their peak of ripeness and still warm from the sun have a power all their own, and a flavor that makes you want to eat the whole thing like an apple.
Tomatoes have come a long way over the past decade. The movement has been away from the flavorless tomato-like items in the grocery stores to heirloom varieties which come in many shapes, colors, flavors, and textures. With names like: Brandywine, Green Giant, Berkley Tie Die, Pineapple, Cherokee Purple, and Kellogg’s Breakfast; it can be overwhelming! But, if you are fortunate enough to encounter any of these wonderful varietals, though they may not be pretty, their flavor is well worth their weight in gold!
To describe a few:
The Cherokee Purple is a huge tomato with a beautiful purple/green exterior and a ruby colored flesh. The taste is rich and full, making you wonder where this tomato has been your whole life.
The Berkley Tie Die (the author’s personal favorite) is a strikingly gorgeous tomato with streaks of green and red and sweet full tomato flavor that is nothing short of jaw dropping.
Brandywine is the heirloom variety that many gardeners grow. With a fantastic long lasting true tomato flavor and its beautiful deep red color, no wonder it is a crowd pleaser!
Tomatoes like this can be enjoyed thickly sliced on toasted bread with mayonnaise, salt and freshly cracked black pepper, or in a simple and easy tomato and cucumber salad.
Here is a quick recipe:
-1 Cucumber, peeled, deseeded, and chopped.
-2 large tomatoes, chopped
-1 clove garlic, finely chopped
-4 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
-1 Tablespoon Red Wine or Champagne Vinegar
-1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
-3 Leaves Fresh Basil, chopped
– Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to Taste.
-Peel the cucumber with a vegetable peeler and then cut the cucumber long ways to expose the seeds. –Use a spoon to scrape out the seeds and then chop the cucumber into bite sized pieces.
-Use a knife to de-steam the tomatoes and cut into same sized pieces as the cucumbers, be careful not to crush to will release all the juice!
-Mince the garlic using a knife or garlic press.
-Wash and dry the basil and roll them up together then cut into thin strips (called a chiffonade).
-Whisk the olive oil and vinegars together to make a dressing.
-Toss all ingredients together and serve at room temperature. Great served on sliced baguette or just on its own. Yields about 4 cups.
Remember to check out the Farmers Market this weekend for great local produce and help support local farmer’s. Happy eating!