You say tomato, I say pomodoro.
Is a garden without tomatoes still a garden?
Tomatoes, or 'pomodori', as we Italians call them, are the cornerstone of Italian cuisine. Tomato sauce, or 'sugo' as we call it (not 'gravy', not now, not ever) is the holy grail of the week's meals, often consumed on Sunday for dinner (which is generally a multi-course, multi-hour event that begins around 3pm).
Some of my earliest memories as a child are going out to Riverhead, NY to pick tomatoes off the vine at Lewin Farms. I can still smell the seemingly endless rows of vines and the freshly watered earth.
Each time I walk through my backyard in the summer I flash back to those early memories. Each time I'm able to pick a tomato and smell the vine on my hand, I'm suddenly stumbling through the winding and wrapping vines of Lewin Farms once again.
As I get older some memories get fuzzier, but one memory in particular will hopefully never fade; the scene in my backyard after the pick-ur-own event–the traditional and damn near religious, tomato canning ceremony. While we haven't canned our backyard tomatoes yet this year, I do have quite a few photos to share. This year we grew a handful of varieties (some samples pictured below).
We use our tomatoes mixed in green salads, in salads of their own, on sandwiches, with eggs, in frittatas, as sauce, sprinkled with salt, on top of pizzas and focaccia, as flavor additives to soups–the list goes on and on.
Above you can see a quick gallery of the cherry, grape, and heirloom tomatoes we have growing, while they were still in their early maturation stage.
Above are the cherry tomatoes two weeks after the previous photos.
Extreme close-up of the cherry tomatoes.
A basket filled with yesterday's harvest.
Planting & Care
If there's one thing I've learned over the years about growing tomatoes it's: heat, heat, heat. Here in southern NY, our summers tend to be hot and humid (high 70s to 90s) which is ideal for their growth.
Tomatoes need heat and sun, and plenty of it. 6-8 hours a day minimum. Be sure to plant your tomatoes in the sunniest spots of your yard, or if you start them off in a shady spot, when have reached roughly a foot in growth, be sure to move them.
Don't oversaturate your soil with too many plants, as they can grow to well over 6-7 feet and will be very demanding on the soil's nutrients. We try to keep at least 2-3 feet between each plant.
Be sure to maintain wet soil for your plants. Never allow the top inch of soil to dry out completely.
I plan on following up with a blog about the full canning process when I 'can' (pun intended), and some sauce and pizza recipes. Stay tuned!