Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 34

The tomato is the star in summertime suppers
BY DAMON LEE FOWLER

T

ISTOCK.COM / IRINKA-S

he summer my grandfather died,
he'd just retired and was cultivating his largest garden in 30 years.
It had just about everything-string
beans, tomatoes, sweet corn, okra,
squash, eggplants, bell peppers, peanuts and more. But the one thing I remember most was his prized tomato.
He'd always wanted a tomato
that would hang out of the sides of
his sandwich, and, by golly, he was
growing it. The thing was easily as big
as his head. He nurtured, even coddled, it, making sure it wasn't going to
break the vine with its sheer weight.
He eagerly watched for it to start turning from green to red.
Sadly, he died before it happened.
When at last it ripened, my grandmother could barely stand to pick it.
It then sat on her kitchen counter for
days; she couldn't bring herself to cut
it. But after finally being convinced
that Granddaddy would've been really upset to know she'd let his prized
tomato rot, she tearfully sliced it and
laid it between soft white bread slathered with mayonnaise. They were the
most enormous tomato sandwiches
I've seen before or since.
My grandparents were dyed-inthe-wool Southerners, and Southerners, you know, are funny about toma-

34

toes. We love all produce, but nothing
speaks to us of summer quite like a
freshly plucked, sun-warmed tomato.
And those without gardens feel that
tomatoes touted as "sun- or vineripened" are the main reason farmers
markets and roadside produce stands
exist.
No other produce promises as
much. At once sweet and tart, it's
used both as fruit and vegetable.
The tomato is the essential ingredient in any summer salad; the base for
countless soups, stews, pot roasts and
sauces; and the ultimate hot-weather
sandwich filling. Of them all, however, the best may be eating it right
out of your hand beside the vine. It's
simply summer in a mouthful.
How did we come to this love affair with tomatoes? That story could
fill entire volumes, but here's the
quick version.
Native to Central America, tomatoes were probably introduced
to Europe by the Spanish and to the
Gold Coast of Africa by the Portuguese. From there they spread to
North America. According to legend,
Europeans and American colonists
believed this nightshade relative was
poisonous; if so, everyone got over it
in a hurry (encouraged, no doubt, by
the belief that tomatoes were also an
aphrodisiac). Tomatoes were quickly
assimilated into the cuisines of West
Africa, Southern Europe and Colonial America. Growing in Southern
gardens since well before the Revolution, they've been a fixture on our
tables for nearly three centuries.
But never mind how they got
here; let's just be grateful they did.
What's really important to know is
how to choose and use them. With a
renewed interest in heirloom varieties, the selection of tomatoes in seed
More online at www.georgiamagazine.org

TIMOTHY HALL

From vine to table
catalogs is dizzying. Fortunately, they
all fall into two categories: cooking
(sauce) and slicing (salad) tomatoes.
Cooking or sauce varieties tend
to hold their flavor when heated (a
few even get sweeter) and usually
have fewer seeds, but their key characteristic is a tendency to collapse
in cooking. The best-known are the
pear-shaped plum tomatoes, including Roma, Red Pear and Italy's prized
San Marzano, but many slicing varieties, such as Better Boy and Brandywine, are fine for cooking as well.
Slicing or salad tomatoes tend to
be meaty, firm and distinctly sweet.
They're the best for sandwiches (although plum tomatoes make lovely
bite-sized sandwiches when the occasion requires daintiness). These tend
to have correspondingly meaty, substantial names: Better Boy, Big Boy,
Beefsteak, Steakhouse, Porterhouse
and, of all things, Mortgage Lifter.
The other common salad tomatoes are the opposite extreme: sweet,
bite-sized beauties no bigger than
the grapes or cherries for which
they're often named. Too small to
slice, they're used whole in salads
or for snacking and occasionally in
cooking.
Whether you're buying seeds,
plants or ripe fruit, ask the vendors
if you're not sure about the variety. If
they're selling it, they'll know what to
do with it.
Enjoy these summertime tomato
recipes.
Damon Lee Fowler is a Savannah-based writer, culinary historian
and cooking teacher. He is the author
of nine cookbooks, including "Classical Southern Cooking," "Essentials
of Southern Cooking" and "Ham: A
Savor the South Cookbook," to be published this fall.
GEORGIA MAGAZINE


http://www.ISTOCK.COM http://www.georgiamagazine.org

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Georgia Magazine - July 2017

Contents
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - Intro
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - Cover1
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - Cover2
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 3
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - Contents
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 5
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 6
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 7
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 8
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 9
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 10
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 11
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 12
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 13
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 14
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 15
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 15A
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 15B
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 15C
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 15D
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 15E
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 15F
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 16
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 17
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 18
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 19
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 19A
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 19B
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 20
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 21
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 22
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 23
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 24
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 25
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 26
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 27
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 28
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 29
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 30
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 31
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 32
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 32A
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 32B
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 33
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 34
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 35
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 36
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 36A
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 36B
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 36C
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 36D
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 37
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 38
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 38A
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 38B
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - Cover3
Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - Cover4
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