When I was a kid, tomatoes were red. We had BLTs during the summer, but I can’t really remember us being a ‘Tomato Family’. I began gardening (if you can call it that) at age 16. That is, I intentionally put plants in the garden in order to grow the food that they would produce. I tried to grow tomatoes. Red ones.
My parents had close friends that lived ‘far away’ in southern Indiana – really rural at that time, Quarry Rd near Starlight, In. Nearly a part of the metro area now, but then it was a trek. The Sherman-Minton bridge was still relatively new and my parents’ dear friend, Morris Russell, offered a small plot of land for me to use as a garden. Morris was ahead of his time in many ways. He fished, hunted deer, built his own home and raised his own tomatoes. And corn, strawberries – and oh, made ‘Russell pickles’. Here he was, offering a community garden to me for nothing but some conversation and trading of gardening logic.
Morris was the only one of us that was logical. And experienced. He was in his late 50’s at the time, maybe. I was perhaps 18. Gas was about 30 cents per gallon. I will say, however, that I did NOT walk barefooted to school in the snow. At least not in the summer.
I began to plan and plant. Seeds. My choices were narrow. Tomatoes, broccoli. Once the tomato seeds germinated, I figured they were ready to put into the ground. I am fairly sure that I heard Morris sound a bit exasperated with me when he said I needed to wait a bit longer. The plants weren’t quite ready yet. I figured that maybe HE needed to wait a bit longer, but MY tomato plants were surely far superior to whatever he had grown over the last 50-odd years. I planted. They died. Oh well.
Eventually, the garden became somewhat fruitful. At least, I remember taking vegetables home. Perhaps they were vegetables that he grew – not really sure.
Morris grew great tomatoes. Many more than his family could eat. So, the neighbors got some, the church, the nuns, the friends. But they were red. Green tomatoes were underripe. I don’t remember a pink tomato. Yellow – I don’t think so, but maybe once. Until now.
Unless you’ve been asleep for the last 10 years, you know that heirloom tomatoes are ‘where it’s at’. Not news. But really, step outside the red tomato box and experience a rainbow of tomatoes. So flavorful. So beautiful. So Local.
Today’s post really isn’t a recipe at all. It’s just a picture and some nostalgic meanderings. I put together a breath-taking Caprese Salad last evening with Romaine lettuce leaves and some ‘Perletti’ mozzerella cheese, and a rainbow of heirloom tomatoes. Sprinkled with fresh basil chiffonade and ground black pepper, this salad is further enhanced only by some of my ‘Cook With Mary’ Balsamic Vinaigrette. That’s all you need. Tomatoes, cheese, basil, pepper and perhaps some dressing.
Unbelievable color; unforgetable flavor. Dive in.
Well, maybe not a rainbow, but almost. If you look really close, you can see a bit of purple in the Cherokee purple. Definately red, yellow, orange, pink and a most decidedly green green. Heirloom tomatoes are at their peak, giving all of us an opportunity to tase and experience an explosion of flavors and colors in our mouths.