First, best tomato

First, best tomatoI harvested the first red tomato off our Big Beef plant at least a week ago. A small hole had developed in its skin, and I was afraid that leaving it out to ripen in the elements would mean I’d end up with a rotten tomato.

Because this was the first tomato that I’ve ever grown, I felt it needed elevation to the level of ritual. I’m Catholic, so it’s probably surprising that I didn’t wave incense over it and ring a bell.

Instead, I let it sit on our kitchen windowsill, continuing to ripen, as I kept a close watch for any signs of turning bad. The small hole remained the same size, shape and color, so I figured it was an aberration.

The other factor that held me from turning it into food was that I was paralyzed by the sheer monumentality of the issue. How does one eat one’s first tomato? Pure and simple, sliced and with salt? I knew I didn’t want to throw it into gazpacho or sauce, because I wanted to recognize what I was eating while I ate it. But include it in a Middle Eastern salad? Put it on a sandwich?

Yesterday, though, I took a look at the tomato and determined that, decision or no decision, it was time to eat it. So I reverted to my classic, my favorite standard: caprese salad. It’s not creative, but it is always heavenly.

That being said, I went for exquisite presentation. A lovely plate. Basil from our garden. Really good olive oil and balsamic. I lifted a forkful of basil, mozzerella and tomato (my tomato!) to my mouth and chewed slowly.

It might have been the best tomato I’ve ever eaten. And there are more ripening, and more growing. Party on.

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11 Responses to “First, best tomato”


  1. 1 steven August 7, 2006 at 6:53 am

    Yay tomatoes! I think the Caprese option was the best choice since it’s best made with a perfectly ripe tomato. 58,103,033 Italians can’t be wrong.

  2. 2 kalyn August 7, 2006 at 8:44 am

    Congratulations, and the salad is beautiful.

  3. 3 Sugar Creek Farm August 7, 2006 at 9:48 am

    I grew beefsteak tomatoes for the first time this year. I did the same thing – brought it inside to ripen because I was afraid the bugs would find it first. I could be found in the kitchen carressing it lovingly and speaking to it in hushed tones. Finally sliced it this weekend. BLT’s. I’ve been hoarding bacon in the freezer since we butchered in January, dreaming of this day!

  4. 4 Dori August 7, 2006 at 11:11 am

    This looks genuinely divine. From one happy “finally got a read tomato” iowa gardener to another.

  5. 5 Lisa Morgan August 7, 2006 at 2:54 pm

    Oh, so heavenly. That looks beautiful and there may not be anything better in the world!

  6. 6 Tina August 7, 2006 at 5:16 pm

    I, too, have become an “inadvertent gardener” over the last 2 years and I just picked our first cherry tomatoes off the vine last night. How wonderful they were! I wanted to save them, but for what? So I ended up popping them in my mouth as I went about my kitchen chores. But upon seeing your wonderful tomato, I think I will try to add your variety to my garden next year. The salad looks heavenly!

  7. 7 Carol August 7, 2006 at 8:06 pm

    My tradition is to eat the first tomato in the garden, right off the vine, like an apple, juice running down my chin… then on to recipes and more civilized eating with forks and such.
    I also like to pick subsequent tomatoes a day or so “early” and let them ripen inside. Cuts down on the risk, the heartache of rotten tomatoes, and I don’t think it affects the taste.

  8. 8 inadvertentgardener August 7, 2006 at 9:41 pm

    Steven, you’re absolutely right…can’t argue with a whole nation.

    Kalyn, thank you so much! I’m telling you…ritual is key. :-)

    Kelli, have no fear…I’m getting plenty o’ BLTs out of this, too. I’ve been using Morningstar Farms’ faux bacon strips, but still, the effect is there. I can’t imagine combining it with bacon from my own farm…wow!

    Dori, love your blog! Just checked it out and will check out more in the coming days. Glad you’re getting tomatoes, too…it’s a wonderful season in Iowa, isn’t it?

    Tina, I agree with you…why save ’em? I’ve barely used my grape tomatoes in any particular dish, and have mostly just popped ’em straight up. I love them just slightly warm from the garden…fabulous!

    Carol, I wish I’d thought of that…now THAT’S ritual! And yeah, I’m with you on the rotten tomato issue. I’d rather pick them a little early and just hope for windowsill ripening than risk them rotting on the vine. That might just break my heart…

  9. 9 inadvertentgardener August 7, 2006 at 10:38 pm

    Lisa, it was, without question, totally fabulous. I’m now an official my-own-tomato addict.

  10. 10 elskermeg August 11, 2006 at 4:57 am

    Insalata Caprese! Best choice you could have made :-) I’m an American living in Sicily and I can’t believe how much caprese I’ve eaten over the last few years! I make it at home AND constantly order it as an appetizer or side dish whenever we go out for pizza. But don’t let the summer slip past without making some bruschetta :-)

  11. 11 inadvertentgardener August 11, 2006 at 6:57 am

    Elskermeg, I had kind of forgotten about making bruschetta…hmm…must put that on the list….


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