The single most popular crop grown in American gardens is the tomato. Roughly 86% or 9 out of 10 gardeners plant tomato plants. I know a lot of people grow them to make tomato sauce, but I would say the most iconic use of tomatoes by the home gardener is the Tomato Sandwich. Not even a BLT. Although I like bacon, and am not above making myself a bacon sandwich, bacon just gets in the way of the season's first Tomato Sandwich. So we all wait impatiently for that first slicer to ripen in the garden.
Monday, August 9, 2021
The Ritual of the First Tomato - Harvest Monday
It may not be the biggest.
It may not be the prettiest.
But it will be the best tomato of the whole year.
I always start watching the first fruit set of the season. This year it was the Carbon. This tomato is new to me this year. It is a black, indeterminate slicer which is renowned for its taste. I knew which cluster of tomatoes was likely to ripen first and every day I would check them to make sure they were doing OK. When the time approached, I began to check several times a day!
I picked this tomato yesterday. I feel that picking a tomato in the height of a warm afternoon intensifies the taste. My first slicing tomato from the garden has been as early as July 21st. Waiting until August 8th was a trial on my patience. However, when I did the math, it was 77 days from the day I potted up the transplants. Carbon is a 76 day tomato. Right on schedule!
It is also one of my earliest slicing varieties this year. In the next 10 days I should see my Sparks color up and then we will be in full swing. The Pink Berkeley Tie-Dye can be as early as 65 days but my plant did not set early and then I lost most of the first set to BER.
The ritual of the first tomato sandwich is something I look forward to starting in late winter. It is something I plan for months in advance. It cannot be taken for granted and it cannot be rushed. I can't have just any old bread. For me it should be a thick white bread, not whole grain. Most recently I have been choosing Pepperidge Farms Farmhouse Butter Bread. There should be liberal application of mayonnaise, my long time friend's family secret recipe seasoning salt, and oregano.
I slice the tomato so as to have two fillet cuts from the center. Some of the larger, more oblate tomatoes only yield one center cut but it will be enough for a whole sandwich. The Carbon appears to be rounder, more of a hamburger slicer than a whopper, sandwich slicer so it took two slices to fill a sandwich. The shoulders are discarded. The skin of the Carbone was on the tough side and the cracked shoulders were inedible anyway. But the blossom end left over is for tasting. This is where you will get the most concentrated example of the tomato's taste. Take a bite and wait for the subtle yet complex flavors to develop. Add a little seasoning salt and take another bite.
My mind flipped through a slide show of months of anticipation, seed catalogs, grow lights, weather reports and tending. I compared it to memories and expectations, smells and tastes...
This thing that Nature and I had created.
And it was good.