Strawberries and Tomatoes: A Chronicle of My Life in the Good Food Movement

The daily need to eat, and the search for food it requires, is humanity's umbilical cord to the rest of the planet. Every action we take as we feed ourselves and our families reinforces and recreates our connection to the millions of other species on Earth.

The work I do is to make that connection explicit at a time in human history when it is tragically far from being so. I love what I do, and it's high time I write about it. This is a chronicle of the 17 years I've spend connecting people with the sources of their food, and of what I hope are many more years of that work to come.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

True Love for Homegrown Tomatoes

The home-grown tomatoes in their home kitchen just after harvest.
Yesterday was the 26th annual Massachusetts Tomato Festival and Contest at Boston City Hall. You can learn all about the winners here.

I held down the fort in the office while our ED attended the contest, but I didn't mind ... because there is a week-long Homegrown Tomato Festival going on in my own kitchen!

It began this weekend at my father-in-law's, where my spouse and I learned that the Saturday morning plan was as follows: pick all the tomatoes from the 20-plus (!) tomato plants Papa-in-law had planted in the spring, and liberate as many as we wanted for our own kitchen. It didn't take even one twist of our rubber arms before we were out the door to the garden, and after a leisurely hour embracing tomato vines in the sun we rewarded our labor with fresh tomato sandwiches for lunch. And despite my affinity for the heirloom varieties, the hybrids Papa-in-law planted were the best of the summer so far. And it's been a darn good summer for tomatoes, and I am, as mentioned previously, a bit of a tomato snob. I credit Papa-in-law's good soil and TLC, and his Southeastern Mass location (a farmer friend once called it "Massachusetts' own little Mediterranean coast!")

Now well over half of those tomatoes sit on the table in our Boston kitchen, awaiting their fate. This evening I plan to try a recipe from Sherri Brooks Vinton's new home-preserving guide, Put 'Em Up. It seems simple, which I like, and liable to turn all the air in our apartment into a cloud of rich tomato-y goodness, which I LOVE. Looks like I need little more than a summer day when I'm willing to turn the oven on (65 and rainy in Boston today -- check), gobs of tomatoes (check), olive oil (one of those exported luxuries that is essential to my personal brand of locavorism), salt, and time -- at least two hours worth. I don't have the recipe with me as I write, but if it turns out well (and how could it not, with those ingredients, user error aside?) I'll share tomorrow.

Meanwhile, tomato sandwiches are on the menu every day this week. Spouse likes 'em with generous mayo, toasted whole wheat bread, and big thick slices of tomato. I like mine with sparing mayo, layers of finely sliced tomato, and plenty of salt and pepper. And the enormous wooden salad bowl that was full to the brim with cherry tomatoes on Sunday evening has in less than two days been seriously depleted by our graze-bys (like a drive-by only much more tasty and with no intimation of violence ... except maybe to the tomato!)

I can't think of a better way to celebrate Farmers Market Week in our house than with our very own Homegrown Tomato Festival. And when this batch runs out and / or gets put up for winter, I will rest easy knowing that a Labor Day visit to my parents' place out in the Western part of the state will secure us another batch of those precious red orbs.

And I'll thank my lucky stars that between our parents' generosity with their garden goodies, and the 224 farmers markets state-wide, basement-apartment dwellers like my spouse and I are never far from a ripe tomato from July through October.

** Today's blog post was brought to you by the Loving Local blog-a-thon, hosted by Tinky at In Our Grandmother's Kitchens with support from the Mass Dept. of Ag Resources and Mass Farmers Markets. The Federation of Mass Farmers Markets is the charitable beneficiary of this blog-a-thon. So if you feel as lucky as I do to have 224 markets and counting spread across the state, and if you're also enjoying reading, writing, or cooking your way through this blog-a-thon, think about visiting the Mass Farmers Markets web site and showing a little love.**

Because in the words of song-writer Guy Clark, as as masterfully covered by Northeast songsters Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, there's "Only two things that money can't buy: true love and homegrown tomatoes!"


  1. Nothin' better than tomato sandwiches...'cept maybe MORE tomato sandwiches!

  2. So true ... I've already packed tomorrow's lunch bag with 4 slices of toasted bread, spread with mayo, and two beautiful tomatoes to slice up come noontime.

  3. I imagine you covered in tomatoes at this point--wow! And I love the song line.