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Tomatoes, Summertime’s Simple Joy

Posted on | August 24, 2015 | Written by Janice Cable | 1 Comment

Nothing says "carpe diem" like tomatoes

Nothing says “carpe diem” like tomatoes

Tomatoes are a simple delight. Their taut skins straining under the pressure of their flesh, their seeds held captive in that singular tomato gel, their meaty husks strangely satisfying, you know, for a fruit—tomatoes make it look easy, especially right around now, late August, when in a good year we are knee-deep in tomatoes’ lambent hues. And, make no mistake: this year in the Northeast is a very good year for tomatoes.

In the best of all possible worlds, we eat them warm off the vine, as thoughtlessly as we eat berries or apples, depending on the size of the tomato. One step down from that, we find them ripe to almost bursting, and we slice them (serrated bread knives are the secret to cutting tomatoes without tearing their thin skins), plate them, drizzle them with olive oil and dust them with salt. You can go for baroque and add fresh mozzarella, ricotta or burrata, if you like. Sometimes the lily enjoys a little gilding.

My love affair with summer tomatoes began when I was a toddler. My great-grandfather tended a small garden at our family’s summer enclave on Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. I’d watch him garden, and I’d putter about the tomato stakes, taller than I, inhaling the tomato essence, that herbaceous acrid smell that fills your nostrils with its pointed scent. He raised beefsteak tomatoes, and we’d all eat them sliced on plates, their wet tomato guts oozing beautifully.

Like my great-grandfather, my mom grew tomatoes in her organic garden. She tried all manner of trellis, stake and tree to get the best results; at one point, she even let the vines grow upon one another, like long tendril puppies in a big pile. When we had bad harvests, which happened often in Vermont, she’d fill the larder with jars and jars of garlicky pickled tomatoes. Wrapped in newspaper and kept in the dark, a tomato will ripen slowly but perfectly—another tip for you.

Tomatoes, like berries, like peaches, like watermelon, are a fruit of summer. You can get them in the winter, but why bother? The waxy February representations of an August fruit is like eating a bad memory (on the other hand, canned and jarred tomatoes are things of lingering, useful beauty). The tomatoes of summer shout a cacophony of carpe diem. Seize the tomato and enjoy it. Chop it, mix it with extra virgin organic olive oil and salt, and spread it across garlic-rubbed bruschetta, and serve with an orange wine from Paolo Bea. Slice it, drizzle it with olive oil and balsamic glaze, and serve it with watermelon and feta, and put a nice, steely Amalfi Coast rosato on the side. Take a handful of the tiny tomatoes, cut them in half and swirl them with pasta, brie and olive oil, and serve with Cornarea Roero Arneis. Or just eat them from your palm, a saltshaker in your other, as my great-grandfather did. Nothing that good ever goes out of style.


One Response to “Tomatoes, Summertime’s Simple Joy”

  1. Jennifer Kochman
    August 24th, 2015 @ 6:59 pm

    This captures the essence of the taste of summer.

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