The Coast News Group
Small Talk

Homegrown tomatoes are a terrible thing to waste

Can’t talk now. My mouth is full as I stand at the sink eating fresh vegetables and fruit. Even though we can get one sort or another of edible fruit year-round here in Southern California, our selection is untouchable when it is local and in season.
And this is the season I wait for all year long. Most of my favorites are hitting the stores — nectarines, peaches, and cherries, zucchini squash and, ah yes, before long, tomatoes. This is the time of year I shamelessly cozy up to anyone with a garden who just might have to pick more than they can eat. I try to be at hand with an open bag and grateful smile. Just so we are clear, I even love great big, overlooked, overgrown zucchinis. I eat them stuffed with rice and cheese. So bring it on.
But more importantly, let’s talk tomatoes. I know, I know. My somewhat neglected kitchen surely ain’t no cooking show and I am clearly not Paula Deen or Alton Brown, but every year when the summer weather hits, my heart, mind and taste buds turn to homegrown tomatoes.
Does this mean I am growing my own? Well, of course it should, but ummm, no. I honestly did try a time or two. I found, to my great dismay, that tomato plants are really needy little creatures. They require daily attention from someone who will water, weed and take up sword and shield to fight off the host of insects and diseases that also love tomatoes.
Very honestly, it began to feel too much like motherhood again, and I only just got my own two launched. I want to fill my kitchen with fresh tomatoes, but I’d prefer to keep my nest (and schedule) empty, especially of tomato worms, thanks anyway. Happily, to tide me over, I was thrilled this year to find in local markets, a hothouse, vine-ripened, pesticide-free tomato grown nearby in Wilcox, Ariz. On the tomato-yummy scale, they are perhaps an 8. Homegrown, however, will always be a Nirvana-inducing 10-plus.
Meanwhile, I flit from market to market judiciously and stingily purchasing and taste-testing a nectarine here, a quarter-pound of cherries there. You won’t catch me buying tasteless ones twice. Once I zero in on a good source, I buy in bulk until they run out or the season ends, whichever comes first.
And for those taking notes, I just can’t whip up this kind of enthusiasm for strawberry season. I like them, but unlike nectarines, cherries and papayas, I don’t love them. It somehow is a bad reflection on my general values, according to at least one friend. I tell her I am leaving all the best strawberries for her. She still thinks I’m strange.
I believe I have said enough. I don’t want to be pushy about it. But the address of The Coast News is 828 N. Coast Highway 101, Suite C in Encinitas, and drop-offs of excess produce are happily accepted. A homegrown tomato is a terrible thing to waste.