The Tomato

According to Judy

Ode to a small garden
by Judy Schultz

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Our garden is tiny, by any standards. For the past several summers we’ve been part of a community garden, and I’ve cherished every square centimeter of available dirt.

I like the tight, neat rows, the friendly chatter among fellow gardeners, the smell of fresh dillweed, the generosity of successful squash growers. Our community garden patch at Old Man Creek has to move next year in the name of progress, and as the summer of 2015 winds down, I feel a bit nostalgic.

This year, in five short rows, we’ve grown tomatoes and purple kale, wax beans and hyacinth beans, beets and a few carrots. We also produced a dozen gorgeous sunflowers, a happy accident from a previous gardener in a previous year. They grew like weeds. I cut armloads of them to stuff in big pitchers, and magnificent is the only word for them.

I admit, my horticultural successes have been hit-and-miss. Last year’s bumper crop was carrots, which I supplied to family and neighbours whether or not they wanted them. This year? No carrots. The carrots-that-didn’t-grow came as a rude shock. I replanted in mid-June, with little success. Now I know what it means to have a crop failure.

My great success this year was tomatoes. Three enterprising children in our garden club took plant orders way back in February, and I signed up for cherry tumblers, beefsteaks and Indigo Rose, advertised as an exotic black tomato.

In due course the tomato plants showed up, each one in its own Styrofoam cup. The Indigo Rose is the most exotic tomato I’ve ever grown: small black- skinned fruit with red-purple flesh. The flavour is subtle, more tart than sweet, with hints of fried green tomatoes and

my favourite tomato paste, a dark, rusty looking concoction I buy in tubes at the Italian Centre Shop.

Loving vegetables as I do, I was thrilled to see my friend Rose Murray top off the 2015 gardening season with her latest project, Rose Murray’s A-Z Vegetable Cookbook. Rose, who has presented at Christmas in November many times,

is a consummate cook, gardener and supporter of farmers’ markets. This book includes 250 of her best recipes, everything from asparagus to zucchini, including kale chips, curried eggplant, black bean chili, and my own favourite recipe for sweet pepper tapenade with sun-dried tomatoes.

One recipe that didn’t make it into Rose’s new collection is this one, a throw- together dish for a day when you have too many tomatoes. They need to be ripe, and the bigger the better.

Butter a pie plate.

Slice four or five big beefsteak tomatoes, overlapping them in the plate. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Reduce four slices of bread to coarse crumbs and brown them in butter and olive oil, along with two slices of bacon, finely diced, a clove of minced garlic, a couple of chopped green onions and a few leaves of fresh oregano. Sprinkle this mixture over the tomatoes.

Top generously with your favourite grated cheese (a combination of Swiss and mozza works well) and bake at 350oF until the cheese bubbles.

Expect the tomatoes to take about 20 minutes, unless you want to run them under the broiler, in which case it won’t take more than 10. Serve them warm. Tear a few fresh basil leaves over them if you have any left. This is good for brunch or lunch, with scrambled eggs, toast and a heap of bacon.

Judy Schultz loves bacon in everything except ice cream.

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