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Tomatoes – So Many Ways

I simply said, “I ate one of my favorite summer lunches today. Home grown tomatoes and cucumbers with cottage cheese.” You’d thought I’d violated a chiseled–in-stone code of ethics for eating summer’s reddest fruit. Didn’t I know that plain, with a little salt, is the best way to eat a tomato? That question made me curious so I asked a few friends, “What’s your favorite way to eat summer tomatoes?” Answers varied as much as the size and shape of garden tomatoes.
Janet likes the little ones, cherry tomatoes, like the kind she picked and ate while standing in her Grandpa’s garden. Jim wants a whole meal. “Peeled, sliced, and lightly salted tomatoes. With fried taters and cornbread, and a thin slice of Vidalia onion.” Linda’s choice is a grilled tomato. Rachel bakes tomatoes pies. Drew stuffs tomatoes with tuna salad. Karen goes German with a tomato and onion salad, topped with a vinegar and olive oil dressing.
Almost everyone told me to store tomatoes on the kitchen counter, never in the refrigerator. Except Leslie, she likes tomatoes, cold, peeled, and sliced. Kathy refused to be limited to one favorite way. She said, “I love a big thick slice of tomato on bread (I’m guessing soft, white sandwich bread) with mayo and bologna. I love tomatoes with meatloaf and green beans and new potatoes. I love tomato pie. I love tomatoes in a pasta salad with fresh basil. And more.”
And there are other sandwiches. My sister-in-law, Susan said, “I like a warm just-off-the-vine-tomato between a couple of slices of bread with just a bit of salt and mayo.” Angie choice is a cheese and tomato sandwich with Miracle Whip. Sara eats a BLT, heavy on the T. Allen makes a unique sandwich: peanut butter, Miracle Whip, tomato, lettuce and onion. Jane’s tomato sandwich is open-face sprinkled with mozzarella cheese and olive oil, with homegrown basil on the side,
Many think that a straight-off-the-vine tomato, eaten hand to mouth, is best. And maybe it’s because of our raising. Brenda said she did exactly what I did. “When I was a child, I’d pick a bright red tomato in the garden. And I’d stand right there beside the tomato plant and eat it and let the juice ran down my face and hands.” Now we slice or quarter a tomato, sprinkle it with salt, and use a fork.
As a kid, Tricia ate just-picked tomatoes like she’d eat an apple. “Now, that I know how to handle a knife, I go to the extra trouble to skin them, but I still love to stand at the sink (preferably without an audience) and go to town with the salt shaker, eating tomatoes until I get full or eat all of them.” Tricia added, “My favorite way is the most basic, humble, messy way there is.”
I agree that pulling a tomato from the vine and eating it like an apple is the best way to enjoy the its flavor. That’s a snack, not lunch. And since my neighbor Ozzie just delivered a few tomatoes picked from his garden twenty minutes ago, it’s snack time.

Next week: How to preserve garden tomatoes to serve for Thanksgiving dinner.

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