This morning, I harvested 2½ pounds of garden tomatoes. It was a treasure hunt, lifting leaves to search under branches, looking for red amongst the green. I planted a row of varieties suited …
This morning, I harvested 2½ pounds of garden tomatoes. It was a treasure hunt, lifting leaves to search under branches, looking for red amongst the green. I planted a row of varieties suited to our climate. Although, my first ripe cherry tomatoes were volunteers thriving in a pile of rocks outside the kitchen door.
I was trying to remember the details of a story my friend, Tinker Cavallaro (gardening expert), once told about the stupice tomato, pronounced “stu-peach-ka,” the potato-leaf. She felt it was important to our local history. Stupice is early ripening, with heavy yields, and produces well in our micro-climate.
I couldn’t recall how Port Townsend fit into her story, so I reached out to Forest Shomer, founder of Abundant Life Seed Foundation.
I’d met Forest in 1983 as an 18-year-old, when I used to visit Abundant Life’s Uptown bookshop, that’s now Finestre.
Forest confirmed: In 1976, Mr. Milan Sodomka, a home tomato breeder from Prague, sent him a letter and seeds for several tomato varieties, including the stupice. Mr. Sodomka had read an article about the Abundant Life Seed Foundation in Organic Gardening Magazine. Forest grew the seeds in Port Townsend, and ALSF introduced the stupice to the American public in 1977. This all happened during the Cold War! An act of generosity from a 70-year-old gardener, from behind the Iron Curtain, yielded us a popular and cherished tomato variety for our northern maritime climate.
It’s not only the local history and relationships that surround growing, buying, and eating tomatoes in summer, they’re also part of our seasonal anticipation. It’s a brief tomato window on the Peninsula, don’t we want to eat and cook our fill before it’s over?
The Japanese have a word, shun (pronounced “shoon”) that describes the buildup, celebration and acknowledgment of in-season foods. Shun is the moment that a vegetable is at its best or a fish most flavorful. I believe this idea is central to good cooking everywhere.
While ripe tomatoes don’t need adornment and are shun, it’s my job to further seduce the palate.
This summer, I’ve taken my cue and written recipes inspired from places where delicious tomato salads come — Turkey, Iran, Italy, Eastern Mediterranean, India, Spain, and Mexico.
What these cultures have in common is the use of fresh herbs including basil, dill, cilantro, parsley, thyme, oregano, marjoram and mint. They use whole spices such as peppercorns, fennel seed, cumin, coriander, chilies, ginger, sumac, garlic, and onions. Splashes of acid like lemon, lime, sumac, and wine vinegars. Remembering to add a touch of sweetness and sea salt!
Here’s something to try
Grind into a powder: 1 tablespoon of fennel seed, 1/4 teaspoon whole peppercorns and 1 teaspoon of sea salt. Sprinkle on tomato slices drizzled with olive oil and covered in basil.
I’m craving fresh tomato salads and am making them every day. I hope you get the chance to try my recipe before we travel further around the sun.
It’s now or next year!
A bright medley of flavor, color and texture with vine-ripened tomatoes, toasted cumin and a honey-lime dressing. For extra crunch, it’s topped with toasted walnuts. Serve with chicken, fish or warm chickpeas and olive oil.
Tomatoes, 3 cups, 475 g, about 2 large, chop into bite-sized chunks
Sweet red pepper, 1 cup, 130 g, about 1 large, cut into strips and then a small dice
Green onions, ½ cup, 35g, 3 to 4 scallions, thinly chopped using green and white parts
Celery ½ cup, 45 g, 2 stalks, cut into thin strips and a small dice
Parsley ¼ cup, 20 g, pull off leaves, mince or leave whole
Toasted walnuts 1 cup, 100 g, toast, roughly chop
2 small limes, ¼ cup juice, zested and juiced
1 tablespoon raw honey
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons whole cumin seed
1 teaspoon whole coriander seed
1 teaspoon whole fennel seed
1 teaspoon sweet paprika powder
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 teaspoon fresh, minced
Prep produce as described. Arrange veggies in a low-sided salad bowl.
Make dressing: In a small skillet, toast cumin, coriander and fennel together using a medium low heat until fragrant. Using a spice or coffee grinder, combine toasted spices, paprika, thyme, red pepper flakes and salt: grind into a rough powder. Add lime juice and zest to a small saucepan and melt honey in over a low heat. Add ground spices to warmed lime and honey, stir together.
Toast walnuts in a heavy-bottomed skillet over a medium heat until they smell toasted about 4-5 minutes. Or, Toast walnuts at
400° f for 5 minutes
Pour dressing over chopped veggies and gently mix. Sprinkle walnuts over top or serve on the side.
(Sidonie Maroon is a chef and the culinary educator for The Food Co-op. Visit her blog at abluedotkitchen.com.)