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Local food: Cherry tomatoes

Posted Aug 19 2009 6:16pm
I’m an on-again, off-again gardener, but even in my off years, I like to grow a cherry tomato plant in a container. If you think of cherry tomatoes as the one or two hard tasteless marbles left on your plate after you’ve finished your restaurant salad (and don’t dare spear them with your fork for fear of launching them across the table), you might be surprised to discover that homegrown cherry tomatoes are a completely different animal.

Or maybe you’re not surprised. As you probably know by now, commercially grown fruits and vegetables are bred for their appearance and ability to travel over long distances. Garden produce is bred for flavor. It's like the difference between a local strawberry and one that’s been shipped from California or Mexico. The local strawberry is juicy, delicious, and perishable. The supermarket strawberry may still look like a strawberry after sitting in a refrigerated case for a week or more, but it doesn’t taste like one, nor did it ever!

Anyway, I was never a particular fan of cherry tomatoes until I started growing them myself. Now I eat them like grapes, a handful at a time. I especially love the orange Sungold variety, so intensely sweet they could be sold in the candy aisle.

If you have a lot of cherry tomatoes and are wondering what to do with them, here's a recipe for one of my favorite summer salads. I like to use regular red cherry tomatoes for this dish.

Greek Salad

3 Tb. olive oil
1 Tb. red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp. salt
freshly ground pepper
1 large red onion, very thinly sliced
2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cucumber, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup Greek olives, pitted
4 oz. feta cheese, cubed or crumbled

Mix the olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper in the bottom of a large bowl. Add sliced onion and stir, then let stand at room temperature for 30 to 60 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onion softens. (Put plastic wrap over the bowl if you don’t want your kitchen to smell like onions.)

Add tomatoes, cucumber, and olives, and mix. Add cheese and stir gently.

Serves 6-8. This keeps well in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.
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