We've had a few tantalizing samplings of the first ripe tomatoes over the past weeks, as some Yukon Reds and Early Girl varieties tend to ripen on the early side of summer. However, this week it became tomato season in earnest in our garden, and we need to keep diligent watch for those ripening beauties hanging off the vines and hiding under the cascading leaves waiting to be picked every day. I say keep watch, because our free-roaming hens (in particular Gypsy and Sadie) love to find these tomatoes and take one peck out of them, leaving the rest to rot on the vine. We are trying not to lose too many tomatoes in this way, though we certainly have enough to share and don't really begrudge the hens enjoying a few bites of the bounty (but they are equally happy with tomato compost scraps, which is a much better arrangement for us). So now it's Manitoba Reds, Moonglows, Mennonite Oranges, Sungold Cherries, Isis Candies, Peacevines, Sweet Baby Girl Red Cherries, Yellow Pears, Cherokee Purples, Patios, Brandywines, Green Zebras, and loads of Tomatillos that are filling every basket and bowl in our kitchen. Needless to say, meals are centring around tomatoes, as many of these aren't really the sauce or canning variety. We're eating toasted tomato sandwiches, tomato pizza, tomato soup, stuffed tomatoes, salsa fresca, bruschetta, tomato tabbouleh, and today two varieties of tomato pie. Delicious! A rustic savoury free-form tomato tart (with olive oil pie crust, four kinds of colourful heirloom tomatoes, and local goat feta), and an Italian zucchini pie (to which we of course added tomatoes, plus loads of fresh basil, thyme, oregano, and sweet vidalia onions).
Both of these recipes, plus many we have been using during this season are from Simply in Season, a wonderful cookbook that is based around seasonal eating, and celebrates meals made with local ingredients (local for much of North America that is). The recipes have been tested by many kitchens, and sent in from contributers across the country - generally simple, wholegrain, healthful fare that highlights the abundance of each season. Recipes are by name of vegetable (very helpful!) as well as title of recipe. The book also includes short essays, nutritional notes, information about farmers markets and CSAs, food advocacy (food justice, food politics), and other brief commentary from each contributor to accompany their recipe. We have two earlier cookbooks from the same series, Extending the Season, and More With Less Cookbook - also both with many well-worn annotated pages from years of use. For anyone looking for one simple cookbook to encourage you toward more local eating, this is a great one to have close at hand in your kitchen.