I was in the kitchen the other day and happened to glance over my son Richard’s shoulder and discovered a masterpiece! A stained-glass-window BLT.
First, he toasted two slices of sprouted multi-grain bread. Then he smeared one slice with creamy mayonnaise. Next is where the artistry came in with our heirloom tomatoes: a slice of Violet Jasper, a slice of Egg Yolk, a slice of Tim’s Black Ruffles, and a slice of Green Zebra. I should have taken a photo. It was a mosaic of brilliant, shimmering colors. He topped the tomatoes with bacon, then Trout Back Romaine, finally adding the second slice of toast carefully. Then, he savored his carefully built sandwich. Richard’s visit was all too short but loooong on BLTs.
Picking tomatoes is among my least favorite garden chores. Early in the season, there are never enough. And this year, Mother Nature played a trick on me. My favorite all-around heirloom tomato is a staple in French markets called St. Pierre. It’s a nice-sized, round, red, disease- and crack-free slicing tomato. This year, I’d see its red shoulders, reach into the tangle of green foliage, grab it … and come up empty-handed, or at least empty-tomatoed. It turns out we had a family of voles, AKA meadow mice. These varmints tunnel up under ripe tomatoes, gobble from the blossom end, suck out all the juice, seeds, and pulp, and leave only a red shell.
But even with the vole family, tomato scarcity turns to tomato surplus in a matter of days. And then, my arms are itching with tomato leaf fuzz that turns to streams of orange yuck as I wash with soap in the kitchen sink.
Now, with a few good rains, we have a mixture of perfect tomatoes and split rotting ones, so I’m on the double-bucket brigade. Good tomatoes carefully placed in the house bucket, others plopped into the chicken bucket. And boy, do the girls love those tomatoes!
Here is a short review of some of the heirlooms we’re harvesting right now (there is a second planting waiting in the wings).
Tim’s Black Ruffles: If tomatoes were dogs, this would be a Chinese Shar-Pei. This large, reddish, greenish, brownish tomato is pleated, tucked, and overlapped, just like the wrinkles on a Shar-Pei. First year we’ve grown this but it’s a keeper!
White Wax: This creamy, pale yellow tomato came from the seed collection of William Woys Weaver’s Mennonite grandfather. WWW is a food historian, author, gardener and seed saver. The skin of White Wax glows like lit candle, hence, its name. First year we’ve grown a “white” tomato. Blemish-free and sweet.
Roughwood Golden Plum: A Roma-type tomato with an intense golden color that was developed by WWW through a cross between Yellow Brandywine and San Marzano. Named after his home in Devon, PA, Roughwood Golden Plum is meaty, has few seeds, and is reportedly drought resistant. First golden plum tomato we’ve ever grown.
Assilito Family Plum: A robust and flavor-filled local heirloom. My friend Teena gave me a single tomato last fall and I saved the seeds and raised this beauty to harvest.
Violet Jasper: The first Asian tomato I’ve grown, this Oriental jewel is the size of a banty egg (small) but larger than a cherry tomato. It is the color of weathered old brick with a hint of green iridescence.
Three heirlooms we’ve grown before and will continue to grow:
Egg Yolk: The size, shape, and color of, you guessed it, egg yolks. So prolific that I eventually give up picking them … And, just as in the hen house, sometimes you find a double egg yolk on the vine!
Green Zebra: Fresh, citrusy, not-too-sweet taste that always stops red-tomato people in their tracks.
Rose de Berne: We’ve grown this Swiss beauty, with its rosy hue, for years but it took on more significance this summer with our Miss in the Alps.
There’s always next year: Heirloom tomatoes recommended by tomato lovers and on my wish list for next year: Olpaka Plum Tomato (a Polish heirloom, just like my Mom), Black from Tula (a Russian heirloom with delicious, dark flesh), and Ananas Noire. This tomato is said to be a kaleidoscope of colors and flavors. The name is French and translates to “Black Pineapple”. Ananas Noire was developed by Belgian horticulturist Pascal Moreau, so I must try it for my Flemish friend Ziggy.
There’s always last week: The Basil-Tomato Tart recipe and correction caught the eye of an old acquaintance, Elsbeth: “I had to laugh when I saw this … I’m reading it and sort of skipping around and then got to the recipe which started to sound very familiar. I gave it to Terese many years ago and my friend Jane, from Boston, gave it to me years before that … I love when things like this go around and show up at the most unexpected times! I am sending your email on to Jane so she can see how well traveled her recipe is (and who knows where she got it?) Brightened my day!”
Yes, sharing recipes is one of the joys of life. My nephew Wille, who will soon be starting his final year at Johnson & Wales in Providence, RI, spent the summer cooking in restaurants in Lima, Peru, to learn how to prepare seafood. Richard picked him up at La Guardia after his flight from Peru, and Wille whipped up this luncheon salad from our Fleur-de-Lys Farm display, a combination he recalled from working at the Yardley Inn.
Heirloom Tomato-Blackberry Salad
Bite-sized chunks of a variety of heirloom tomatoes, mix those colors!
Fresh chopped basil
Gently toss tomatoes, blackberries and basil in a bowl, splash with balsamic vinegar, and serve. Take care and enjoy the tomatoes of summer. Laurie Lynch
This week at Fleur-de-Lys Farm Market: elderberries, blackberries, heirloom tomatoes, potatoes, beans, summer squash, cucumbers, peppers, shallots, garlic for eating and planting, loofa sponges (and loofas growing on our fence), kale, and flowers – zinnias, cosmos, sunflowers, tassel flowers, salvia, snapdragons, African blue basil, and other gorgeous cottage flower bouquet delights.
Free Magazines! There is a basket of recent Bon Appetit and Saveur magazines in the shop, free for the taking. I also have bushels of old (1990s) Victoria magazines.
Barn Sale Bonanza: Saturday, Aug. 28, we will open our barns to bargain hunters from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Boxes and boxes of books for children and adults, LARGE dog crates, sporting equipment, aquarium/terrarium, parakeet condo, children’s table and chairs, children’s rocker, canning equipment, iron bed, tool chest for pickup truck, and whatever else we can part with in the next several days.
Customer Appreciation Barn Sale Hours: If you’re visiting the shop anyway in the next 10 days, you can shop early. Just ask!
Craftsman Appreciation: A customer stopped by and was inspecting our squeaky screen shop door. “It’s supposed to squeak,” I explained. The fellow who hung it said a shop like ours should have a squeaky door. That carpenter was Tom Loch of Kutzown. He also built our bridge and restored the interior of half of our house after a fire years ago.
Enough Written on Slate Sayings for Sauce:
“Sonny, true love is the greatest thing, in the world – except for a nice MLT – mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is lean and the tomato is ripe.” – William Goldman
About Audiences: “They were really tough – they used to tie their tomatoes on the end of a yo-yo, so they could hit you twice.” – Bob Hope
“You know, when you get your first asparagus, or your first acorn squash, or your first really good tomato of the season, these are the moments that define a cook’s year.” – Mario Batali
“The federal government has sponsored research that has produced a tomato that is perfect in every respect, except you can’t eat it. We should make every effort to make sure the disease, often referred to as ‘progress’ doesn’t spread.” – Andy Rooney
“It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a home-grown tomato.” – Lewis Grizzard