It’s Serious Tomato Time, Says Our Urban Gardening Correspondent

tomatoes on a vine

August is overflow time (and I’m talking tomatoes, not hurricanes).

Out on the Rockaways artist Frank Meuschke‘s beach farm is pumping out tomatoes — at least until Irene pays a visit; then Frank may be pumping out the beach farm. Sitting around a picnic table a few feet from the allotment we ate his Brandywines and Black Russians warm from the vine with burrata and torn up basil. Later, under a harvest moon, the sound of surf pounding the hidden beach drifted over us. Frank and his wife Betsy Alwin turn the tomato crop that they can’t eat into sauce as fast as they can.

At farmers markets the tables are sagging in the middle under piles of heirlooms. I buy massive beefsteaks and stuff them with dill, mint and rice and drizzle an unholy amount of olive oil over the lot. I stuff others with chanterelles and make a red wine jus.

From my own rooftop plot I collected, until this afternoon when I mowed the entire crop down and battened down the roof hatches ahead of the hurricane,  evening handfuls of Lemon Drops, sweeter than their name, and watched my Black Russians ripen long after they reached their peak at beach level. My bulging Brandywines were what converted me to the cause of the seasonal tomato. Why would I ever go back? And with my storm-harvested glut I am making gazpacho and bruschetta and bread salads and, even at this early stage, smooth sauce for simple pizza. I blanch and skin cherry tomatoes for hedonistic salads or dot them on puff pastry squares over schmears of fresh pesto. I make Tomatinis with pink juice. I have not yet made killer tomato consomme flavored with nothing but the red fruit and basil, which in turn makes super-killer jelly. Buttery summer tarts of tomatoes will appear when the temperatures dip. Fried green tomatoes are on the hurricane menu.

The light is changing, September is upon us and there are still tomato things to do. If we have electricity and gas, this weekend might be just the time to do them.  And if we don’t, we’ll suck on those babies raw.

Pass the salt.

Marie Viljoen

Marie Viljoen lives in Brooklyn and believes in food, flowers and plants you can eat (and drink). Join her on a seasonal forage walk or find her daily posts on Instagram @66squarefeet

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