As you all know, or maybe you don’t know, if you are young or not into tomatoes, tomato season is over.
When I was a kid, my mom always made salads, and insisted we eat the salad. Her salads were very simple; iceberg lettuce, avocado, and tomatoes. With mayonnaise on top. The mayonnaise was the only reason I think we ate the salads.
Of course I liked the taste of the tomatoes and the avocado, but that iceberg lettuce was something I could live without; but to my mom it was greens, and she had a hard time getting us to eat anything green. See, my mom had been a nurse in Mexico, and she was real health conscious, and knew that we needed greens. I resisted, doing my best not to eat the spinach, lettuce, or asparagus my mom would try to get us to eat.
When I was 6, I faked a stomachache one day to get out of going to school. I ended up in Cumberland hospital for the night deprived of food, to see if it was something I ate or appendicitis. When I finally was given something to eat the next day, at noon, the side was the hated asparagus. That was the day I learned to like asparagus.
But wait, I’m veering off from the red into the green!
Back to tomatoes.
Danusia’s plastic tomatoes.
I’ve written two blogposts about tomatoes, one about real tomatoes and one about the lovely Danusia’s plastic tomatoes, the ones she used in her one-woman show. When I posted the first one, about the real tomatoes, my writing teacher Charles Salzberg (Salzberg like the city) didn’t read it because he thought I was plugging Danusia’s show again. Maybe he’ll read this one since I’m plugging his name. He’s in Australia plugging his new book, Devil In The Hole.
Danusia’s dad grew tomatoes at one point, ergo her show about tomatoes. The woman that introduced me to Danusia, beautiful Beth Young, may she rest in peace, was the first person who made me realize that there was a tomato season and that’s why they tasted so horrible for 8 months of the year, almost as bad as that iceberg lettuce.
See, I’d been used to seeing tomatoes in the supermarket all year round, not knowing that tomatoes were grown in heated greenhouses in winter, and that in order to increase profitability and hardiness, farmers had developed what are known as “pinkies”, hard, pink tomatoes with hard white stems that run almost the length of the tomato; and this is what I usually got in the winter.
“I don’t eat tomatoes out of season.” Beth had proclaimed. But I stubbornly did, and I went from store to store looking for the perfect tomato every winter, thinking that color should be my guide; and time and time again being disappointed. Then last spring I discovered the Tastee-Lee tomatoes, grown in Florida. About the best off-season tomatoes you can find.
Not quite as good as the fresh Long Island tomatoes we had in Mattituck this summer, or the tomatoes we got from the Amish at our local greenmarket till the last week of October, but pretty good. Better than the trashy hothouse tomatoes I got at whole foods the other day for $3.50 a pound, hard on the outside, empty on the inside like a water filled pepper with a stem as hard as a twig. It tasted like a twig as well.
This is what it looked like inside:
Stay away from these, unless you like the taste of twigs. The leaves wouldn’t even come off the top, a sure sign they were picked green and will never ripen.
The little grape tomatoes are usually OK during the winter, and I use these for salads.
But I need the bigger tomatoes for the sandwiches I take to work, thus my constant search for the perfect tomato.
See, I’ve only been able to find the Tastee-Lee tomatoes at two places in the city; The Gourmet Garage carries them, and so does Eataly on 23rd Street. Both a little out of my way; but if I want that tomato, I’m going to have to make the effort.