Stirring up memories
The Taste of Summer
July 6, 2005
everywhere! Fields clumped with
green bushes covered with greener fruit stretch out across the
countryside. In-town gardens
with scarlet and yellow. Vegetable
stands spill over into bushel baskets.
should. It’s July in Southwest Georgia.
“How many?” I asked Joel Hudgins, the Decatur
County Extension Coordinator.
There’s not an exact answer—other than
“lots.” I used Joel’s
figures to do some back-of-an-envelope calculations. I figure that our commercial tomato crop
is well over a million pounds of the red fruit. And remember we have two crops every
harvest is almost over for the spring crop. The fall crop will go into the ground
soon, and in October, we’ll have tomatoes again. Joel says that after corn, tomatoes are
the biggest food crop in the county.
Most of them will appear in fresh markets all along the Eastern
seaboard. Some go south into
Florida where harvest takes
place earlier. A few may make
into our own grocery stores and vegetable stands.
But that is
the commercial tomatoes. Home
gardens are full as well. Seems like every where I look, I see tomatoes.
They were on my mind a couple of weeks
ago when I went to Atlanta
to visit with friends in the Southern Foodways Alliance about our common
interest in food and history. I
offered to bring along some of the refreshments. Our hostess told me not to worry since I
was coming from out of town.
Then I offered to
bring a South Georgia tomato pie. This was different. “Please,” my hostess
e-mailed back, “bring the tomato pie.” I took two of Barbara Tennille’s
classic pies. This is what summer
tastes likes. (And it’s a summer tradition with Stirring up memories to share this recipe every year!)
9” pie shell
2 or 3 large tomatoes, thickly
salt and pepper
sweet basil, coarsely chopped
2 or 3 green onions, chopped
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese,
Fill the pie shell with
tomatoes, sprinkle with salt, pepper, green onions and basil.
Combine the mayonnaise and
cheese and spread over tomatoes.
Bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees.
This should serve six.
Likely, it will serve four.
Sometimes, it seems like there
may be too many tomatoes. Neighbors
bump into each other walking next door, each bearing a bag of tomatoes. If you should have leftovers after
salads, the tomato pies, and don’t forget the tomato sandwiches (eat
over the sink!), try drying some.
The traditional method is under cheesecloth in the sun, but you can
the same great taste in a slow oven.
Salt and pepper
Fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, oregano, parsley, sage)
Preheat the oven to its lowest setting (around 200 degrees). Lightly oil a cookie sheet
or baking pan with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Slice tomatoes crosswise
into 1-inch slices. If you are using Roma tomatoes cut them in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds with your fingers. Pack
the tomatoes tightly together on the pan; they should fill the entire pan.
Drizzle the tomatoes lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper,
sprinkle with fresh herbs if desired (use thyme, rosemary, oregano or garlic,
alone or in combination). Leave the tomatoes in the oven until they are
shriveled and dehydrated without being burned. This will take from six to eight or ten
hours depending on the size of the tomatoes and their moisture content. Check them often and remove as they dry
out. The flavor will be richer and more intense the longer the tomatoes are
left in the oven.
dry in zipper bags in the refrigerator, the tomatoes should last
indefinitely. Stored in olive
they’ll go for about three months.
You can soak the dried tomatoes overnight in olive oil to get the same
effect as storing them in the oil.
Here is a good way to put those freshly dried tomatoes to good use.
Paula Chambers shared this spectacular recipe with me.
I can’t think of a tastier way to enjoy summer.
Paula’s Tomato-Basil Cheesecake
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Coat the bottom and sides
9-inch spring form pan with the melted butter. Combine the crumbs and cheese and
onto the bottom of the pan.
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/3 cup pine nuts
1 cup dried tomatoes, chopped
and soaked in olive oil
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 1/2 pound cream cheese
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped scallions
1 cup sour cream
Blend cream cheese, ricotta
cheese, parmesan cheese and eggs until smooth. Add basil, garlic, pine nuts, sun
tomatoes and scallions. Mix
well. Bake in a preheated 325
oven for 45 minutes or until the center no longer moves when you shake the
pan. Transfer the cake to a rack
and cool it completely. Remove the
outer ring of the pan. Spread
cream over the cooled cake and garnish with green onions, chives, basil and
fresh edible flowers.
Serve with crackers.
There’s a whole range of
edible flowers you can use for decoration:
the flowers of herbs (basil,
rosemary, lavender and mint), roses, nasturtiums, hibiscus, honeysuckle,
impatiens and even the lowly dandelion—though they are best when very
I’d love to share your
favorite tomato recipe. Remember we
have that fall crop coming up.
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Trilla Pando is a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance & the Story Circle Network