“An organic farm, properly speaking, is not one that uses certain methods and substances and avoids others; it is a farm whose structure is formed in imitation of the structure of a natural system that has the integrity, the independence and the benign dependence of an organism.”
-Wendell Berry, The Gift of Good Land
Home Grown Tomatoes
It is that time of year that I look forward to, it has finally arrived -Tomato season! I have a confession to make. I hate tomatoes. Well, ok, maybe hate is a strong word, but then again so is the word tomato. Let me explain.
When I grew up I could not stand tomatoes. I didn’t want them in the salad, not on, in, or around the sandwich, not one the side hiding under some otherwise innocent lettuce. My mom would hold one in front of me and eat it whole with a little salt, a sight I thought I would never recover from. Tomatoes were evil. Weird texture, not much taste, kind of like slicing through foam board and about as delicious. A gruesome obstacle on the way to dessert. By the time I was old enough to pick from my neighbor’s garden or my grandfather’s, I never even gave those a chance.
Then, years later, living on a farm back in Georgia, I had a new experience. For the first time in my life, as far as I could remember, I had a tomato that was not the same like all the others. It had dark, rich color. It was still firm but softer than usual -how would something like this ship? It smelled, well, nice. Like it had its own flavor. I watched everyone joyfully eating the fresh season’s harvest -the “first flush” they called it. In a moment, my tomato ban was cautiously lifted, but I thought only temporarily. It was then that I had something more than a tomato. I had a Cherokee Purple. Or it had me. We had each other. The point is, my disdain for the fruit was splattered forever.
It dawned on me later that day, after I emerged a new man, that I actually had never had a real tomato, since I shunned all after those first experiences. By that time I had learned about hybrids and specific types that were hybridized to the point where they could be picked weeks early (which they cleverly named “mature green tomatoes”), and then gassed in chambers with ethylene before final shipping. The gas is odorless and tasteless, so it’s probably why it fits in so well with those tomatoes. Plus it’s chemically identical to the gas that is normally produced by mature red fruits. So then why does the result taste like cardboard? I don’t really know, but what I do know is they ruined my childhood. Well, ok, maybe not completely, but as a result I did grow up culinarily stunted.
Back to the future, at the old farmstead from my emergent college years, there were the local tomatoes, many also hybrids, that I found good, but to me none equalled the Cherokee Purple. It’s dark spiral tones sink low, like a mushroom of a mixed hardwood forest, while a thin sweetness weaves through the smokey hinterlands. They were firm enough to be a slicer, but with a softness and green seed coating gel that would run joyfully over my sourdough bread, infusing tiny rivulets of flavor. I made toasted pecan pesto from the basil, added a little sheep or goat cheese -and that describes my lunch for tomato seasons since. Since then it has also included an ever-expanding repertoire of open-pollinated heirlooms. Brandywine, yellow pear, german striped, the list goes on. Now it’s toasted coconut and malabar chestnut pesto, with coconut oil! wow...
Only recently did I find out that my favorite tomato in the world probably was grown by my own ancestors for hundreds of years, in the Northeast Alabama area and East Tennessee in the beginning of the Appalachian mountains. Now the flavors make sense to me. Combined with the soil and water of St. Croix, and the lovely sunshine, it is no wonder they have such a distinctive presence.
Cheers to the heirlooms, the hybrids, and the volunteers! Cheers to the farmers, carefully watching over and protecting our crop! Cheers to our ancestors, for these and all the foods they cultivated for generations so that we may have joy in life! May we always be able to read the story of our food.
Ok, I changed my mind. I love tomatoes!
Nate & the Ridge to Reef Farm Crew
Heirloom and Cherry Tomato Salad
1 (1/2-pint) basket assorted cherry tomatoes
2 pounds heirloom tomatoes, different colors and sizes
1 shallot, diced fine
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, smashed
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Green and purple basil leaves, chopped
Lemon cucumbers and torpedo onions, optional
Stem the cherry tomatoes and cut them in half. Core the larger tomatoes and cut them into slices or wedges.
For the vinaigrette, macerate the shallot in the vinegar with the garlic and a little salt. Whisk in the oil. Taste and adjust the acidity and salt as necessary. Put the tomatoes in a shallow salad bowl or on a platter. Season with salt and pepper, strew on the chopped basil leaves, and carefully dress with the vinaigrette.
Thin slices of peeled lemon cucumber and torpedo onion are wonderful additions to the salad.
For a more elegant tomato salad, slice perfectly ripe heirloom tomatoes and arrange them on a platter. Season with salt and pepper, a splash of good Champagne, and a generous drizzle or extra-virgin olive oil.
Recipe Courtesy Alice Waters of Chez Panisse, from the Food Network site
Sauteed Hakurei Turnips and Greens
1 or 2 bunches Hakurei turnips with greens
2 tablespoons olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Trim the stems and root ends from the turnips. Rinse and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Set aside. Trim most of the stems from the greens; discard. Wash the leafy greens, drain, and cut into 2- to 3-inch pieces. Set aside.
In a saute pan over high heat, heat the oil. Add the turnips, season lightly with salt and pepper, and cook without stirring for 2 minutes, until lightly browned on 1 side. Turn and cook on another side for 2 more minutes, without stirring, until lightly browned. Turn again and cook 1 more minute. Add the greens and cook, stirring, until wilted and bright green, about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Recipe adapted from Deborah Geering's in Atlanta magazine
Cool and Crunchy Radish and Spring Turnip Salad
12 small radishes, thinly sliced
3 small salad/spring turnips, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon vinegar
juice of half a lime
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
coarse kosher or sea salt, to taste
Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and stir gently but thoroughly to combine and coat all the slices. Taste and season with salt (you’ll need salt — start with a little pinch and gradually add it until the flavors “pop” as much as you like.)
Recipe adapted from the blog Eggs on Sunday by Amy.
This Week's Harvest
Turnips - hakurei
Radishes - pink, purple &/or red
Lettuce - green or red leaf
Salad Mix - gourmet lettce blend
Cherry Tomatoes - sungold & black
Tomatoes - heirloom
Tomatoes - slicers
Cilantro - caribe
Free Farm Stay for CSA Members! (A $125 value!)
Do you ever wonder what life at the farm is like? Well, we would love for you to experience it with us! Please take this opportunity to volunteer in the gardens, join us for a community dinner, and retreat to your private cabana after dark...
Call us at 340.220.0466 to make your reservations. See you soon!
THANK YOU HOSTS!
Gifft Hill School
St. John 4-6 pm Thursday
Havensight, St. Thomas 11 am -1 pm Thursday
Christiansted, St. Croix 3-5 pm Saturday
Frederiksted, St. Croix 2-4 pm Saturday
FARM WISH LIST
Got some things laying around that we can re-use in the CSA?
Last season we received egg cartons, more reusable bags, a blender, some garden hoses, a trash bin, and other great things that we use and were saved from going to the landfill or rotting in a shed. THANK YOU!
Ridge to Reef Farm serves the US Virgin Islands with certified organic produce grown with sustainable permaculture practices (and a lot of love).