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Sun-Warmed Tomatoes

September 16, 2015
BY CHUCK CLEGG - Columnist , Wetzel Chronicle

Summer is soon to end and if you are like me a bit sad. It has been a good summer. My garden was over grown with weeds the first half from all the rain. The second half, I had to water my garden to get plants to grow. But all and all, it was a good garden year.

For as long as I can remember, I have a ritual that for me defines the passing of summer. It is not a great ceremony with balloons and streamers. In fact, the only thing that it involves is a salt shaker and a sun warmed tomato from my garden.

The tomato I choose has to be of a variety that is not sweet. You have to understand Mary likes tomatoes that are somewhat sweet and I like them tart and bit on the acidy side. She likes the sweet small cherry tomatoes she can pluck off the vine and devoured in one bite. As for me, I like a tomato that I can hold like a baseball and feel the warmth of the sun in my hand.

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As I hold the tomato, it reminds me of the warm days and nights it took to get it to that stage of ripeness. I peel a bit of the skin away, sprinkle a little salt and sink my teeth into a warm sun ripen tomato. For me, that is summer at its finest.

When I was younger, I would take a salt shaker with me to the garden to eat tomatoes and occasionally a cucumber. I always like the fact that my garden could produce something Mary and I had planted, cared for and then harvested. There is a since of pride when you harvest what you have grown. At one time in this country, the family garden was a major part of the meals throughout the summer. And for those who are really energetic the summer harvest could be canned or frozen for the table during the upcoming winter. It was both practical and better for you and your family.

Home canned foods are put up with little or no additives. A little salt or a sprinkle of sugar for added sweetness was about as much additives that were needed for canned green beans or persevered fresh peaches. Look on the label of can of beans or peaches and see if you can pronounce all the things placed inside to preserve them.

Ingredients like, Color #5 yellow or propylene glycol can be found in some foods. I don't think those ingredients were grown in the garden. And what the heck is with this date label on food from the store thing? I'm sure you have seen the, Use by Date. Or best if Sold by Date. The best one is, Don't use if date has expired and the date on the can is partly rubbed off. Is that part of the plan?

Mary always checks dates on things she buys at the store. "Make sure you get the best date when you buy those beans." she tells me. Oh yea, and I can't forget, "That can has a dent, don't buy it." Good thing she reminds me, I'll grab the closest one to me and head for the check out.

As to checking the dates before using, I just figure if I open the can and it looks and smells funny, remove the top layer and see if the bad goes all the way to the bottom. And did you ever get a slice of bread out of the wrapper and see blue green mold? Remember it could be penicillium, the savior of millions of Americans from infection. So what if it is a little fresher than what the doctor prescribes. If you're hesitating just pinch it off and go ahead and make your sandwich. Most likely the lunch meat has so many additives it will kill the mold anyhow.

Last week, I went to my garden to get a special tomato I had been keeping my eye on. It was just the right size and it was in the best position for the hot afternoon sun to warm it all the way to the center. I love it when they are warm all the way into the seeds. Low and behold when I went to pick that special tomato, I found that a Great Green Tomato Worm had taken a bite out of the side towards the sun. I thought about it for a moment and decided he had not eaten that much, so I would finish it off. I plucked the tomato from the vine, rubbed it clean on my shirt, added a little salt and enjoyed the warm summer tomato. I had to admire the Great Green Tomato Worm for his expertise in picking a fine tomato.

Since I have grown a little older, I watch my blood pressure like a good senior citizen should. Years ago my salt shaker and I made many trips to the garden. These days, I wait for just the right sun warmed tomato to make me fetch my favorite shaker from the back of the kitchen cabinet where Mary hides it. Then I stand in my garden warmed by the late evening sun of September enjoying the tart acidy flavor of my tomato. By this time of season, the skin on the tomatoes is becoming thicker and I have to work a little harder to peel them away to add the salt.

One other thing I did in the garden a few days back, but you have to promise not to tell Mary. I pulled the outside skin off one of her favorite little sweet tomatoes. That made it a little easier for the Great Green Tomato Worm to eat his share of the last sun warm tomatoes of 2015. I figured he was as entitled as I was. We both enjoy our tomatoes as the last days of summer fade Through the Lens.

 
 
 

 

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