A Hard Year for Yummy

It’s been a terrible year for tomatoes. Right from the start the weather was awful. We had weeks and weeks of drought followed by weeks of heavy, monsoon like rain. I’ve never seen anything like it. Over and over again, there would be no rain for weeks, forcing us to irrigate, then we’d get four inches a day for a week, then it’d go bone dry for another few weeks, then six inches overnight….. The erratic moisture led to a major blossom-end rot problem. We tried to combat it. We packed the beds with 12-inches of straw mulch, attempting to balance out the moisture availability. We tested for Ph. We canceled our plans for a compost top-dressing. Nothing really helped. So far, we’ve had to drop more than 50% of our early season fruit.

Next came the hail. It broke some of our vines and knocked off quite a few flowers. But we were lucky. I know at least two growers who were devastated. They both pulled the plug on their entire tomato crop because of hail damage.


Now, to top it all off, its been cold. Not end-of-the-world, ice-storms in August cold, but certainly not warm enough to ripen fruit. On our farm, the few tomatoes that did manage to set are as green now as they were three weeks ago. We’ve had zero progress. And I’m losing hope for a late season warm-up. Yesterday I wore a sweater all day. The day before I wore one too.


So here I am, living on a farm, in late August, cooking dinner with store bought tomatoes. Fortunately, they weren’t store bought in the traditional sense. These came from a greenhouse operation 11-ish miles from the house (we sell a lot of very local produce at the store where I work). And while it’s been a horrid year for all us plebeian, harry-toed, out-in-the-elements, tomato growers, it’s been a boom year for the greenhouse guys. They have much more control over their environments and are producing some great fruit. They’re also benefiting from pent up tomato demand. Every gardener or grower in the region is suffering a vicious, tomato jones and the greenhouse guys are the only quality game in town.


We used the greenhouse cherry tomatoes very simply in a pasta with olive oil and farm basil. Like most of the recipes I truly love, this one uses less than five ingredients. It’s simple, it’s to the point and there’s nothing in it that distracts from the flavor of great tomatoes.

As is the case with many simple recipes, the secret to this one is in the salt. Before cooking, we liberally salt halved, cherry tomatoes and let them sit for 20-ish minutes. The salt draws out a lot of their juice and moisture. Then we cook the tomatoes in a good olive oil. The sauce cooks quickly, 7-ish minutes. If it over cooks everything gets mushy and looses it’s color. Let the sauce cool a bit then add some julienne farm basil and adjust the salt. That’s it! Great tomato sauce with only four ingredients.

Pasta with Cherry Tomato and Basil

My favorite Go To Sauce

ingredients

  • 2 pints Cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 Teaspoons Sea Salt, plus more to finish
  • 1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 4 oz Fresh Basil, Julianne (4oz=small handful)

method

In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes and the sea salt. Let it rest, refrigerated for 20 minutes. Add the EVO to a hot pan then add the tomato salt mixture. Cook, stirring regularly, for 5-7 minutes or until the tomatoes are soft. Remove the pan from the heat, allow it to cool for a few minutes and stir in the basil. Adjust seasoning with more salt and pepper, toss with pasta and serve hot. Garnish with remaining basil.

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