As the end of summer approaches in British Columbia, our tomatoes are beginning to ripen. This means the time is upon us for caprese salads, pasta sauces, fresh salsas, and pizza sauce. It is easy to know when to pick tomatoes, simply wait until they turn the colour they are supposed to (usually red, sometimes yellow or green) and pick them before they split. They can be picked after they split too, but it is ideal to pick them before that happens. A split tomato is one that has had its skin opened by its insides; it simply means the tomato is overripe.
If you planted tomatoes earlier this spring, and have a surplus, one great use for them is roasting. Mama Friesen has a fantastic roasted tomato recipe, and it is found below. Roasted tomatoes add lots of flavour to soups, sauces, and basically any tomato-based dish. They can also be saved for the winter by freezing.
7-10 Roma Tomatoes
Salt and Pepper
2 cloves Russian Garlic
3 tablespoons Fresh Herbs
Line a baking pan with sides with foil. You want a baking pan with sides because there will be lots of juices and it can make a mess. Put 2 tablespoons of olive oil on the foil-lined baking pan.
Slice your tomatoes. Put the sliced tomatoes on the foil and roll around in the oil until they are covered. Crack some fresh pepper and some sea salt onto the tomatoes. Snip some fresh herbs – any combination of herbs will do but basil and oregano are the best. Again, feel free to use any fresh herbs you desire. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of fresh herbs onto the tomatoes. Mince your garlic and sprinkle on top of the tomatoes. Add a little more olive oil on the top.
Roast in the oven for 2 hours at 325 degrees Fahrenheit. At the 1-hour mark, pull the tomatoes and check them out. Stir the tomatoes around so that the ones on the outside of the pan get to the inside, and the ones on the inside of the pan get to the outside. Put back in the oven. Wait until you see that they are starting to crisp and blacken around the edges.
If you did not grow your own tomatoes this year but still want to find farm fresh tomatoes, there are a number of farms around the lower mainland that have you covered. Taves Family Farm in Abbotsford has heirloom tomatoes. Coft Produce in Mission has tomatoes. Cropthorne Farm in Delta has heirloom tomatoes. Olera Organic Farm, also in Abbotsford, grows over 40 varieties of tomatoes. Silverhill Orchard in Mission has heirloom tomatoes.
As is well known, there are many varieties of tomatoes, and some are best used for certain things. Small, sweet cherry tomatoes, for example, are best used in salads. Roma tomatoes are excellent for pasta sauce. Beefsteak tomatoes make great toppings for sandwiches and hamburgers. Heirloom tomatoes, with their different colours, add nice colour variation to all sorts of salads. Heirlooms can be used as their own salad too, or in a tomato tower. All you need for a tomato tower is heirloom tomatoes, all in different colours, some small basil leaves, some nice cheese – perhaps an aged, smoked cheddar – and some olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Slice the tomatoes and the cheese, then stack it together going tomato slice – cheese slice – basil leaf until you have a tower, about six layers. Drizzle a little olive oil and vinegar on top and you have a tomato tower.
Taves Family Farm – www.tavesfamilyfarms.com
Croft Produce – 29750 Dewdney Trunk Road, Mission BC (604-308-2065)
Cropthorne Farm – www.cropthornefarm.com
Olera Organic Farm – 356 Defehr Road, Abbotsford BC (604-856-7572)
Silverhill Orchard – www.silverhillorchard.com