Tomato Town

Clara Baker '13 gaining insight on tomatoes. PHOTO BY HANNAH WARREN

By Clara Baker

In Environmental Economics the other day, my professor asked the class, “In the winter, is it more energy efficient to eat tomatoes grown locally indoors with lights and contraptions, or ones grown in the sun in California? Which is worse? How can you know?” It was posed as a trick question, but the answer seemed clear to me — don’t eat tomatoes in winter.

See I think you should eat them now, instead. Fill yourself with bushels of plump, ripe, locally grown tomatoes till the point that come winter, you won’t miss ‘em! Or, if you’re a true aficionado, can them, dry them, freeze them and bask in tomato bliss through the frigid winter.

If you didn’t know, it is tomato season. The Beloit Student Dining Co-op is aware of this because we get four bushel boxes of vegetables every week and are currently up to our ears in beautifully ripe heirloom tomatoes. Some are supple and red, others are sweet and yellow. Most of them are extremely plump, and all are delicious.

Tomatoes often get a bad rap. I’m still a little confused about the whole fruit/vegetable identity crisis associated with them. Lots of people dislike the texture. But our tomatoes are not store bought tomatoes, which I find often to be tasteless and mealy. They are not shipped from states away and ripened with gas in the truck to change color. In fact, our friend Tim Lawrence ’12 picks them up for us in nearby Caledonia, IL every Wednesday.

Tomato season for me is very representative of the bounty and freshness of fall. Though we are currently freezing, canning and dehydrating tomatoes, we are mostly eating them fresh. There is nothing like a truly farm-fresh tomato paired with some basil, balsamic vinegar and buttery toasted baguettes: that’s perfection. Or grilled and used as a base topping for pizza, also smothered in mozzarella cheese and sweet bell peppers.

This glorious season won’t last long. So take a moment to go down to the farmer’s market this Saturday between 8 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. to buy a few tomatoes. Appreciate the work of our nearby farmers. Try some heirlooms, they are always new, different and usually extremely delicious.

Recipe of the week:

1) Slice tomatoes and place on plate.

2) Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar over them.

3) Place basil on top and finish with a hint of fresh ground pepper and a pinch of sea salt.

They’re good like that, or add fresh mozzarella and place on a toasted, olive oiled baguette for a great afternoon appetizer. Enjoy!

Also, hungry and obsessed with tomatoes like me? Join Slow Food Club Sunday 9/11 at 5 p.m. in Slow Food/ French House for a Mexican feast featuring locally grown tomatoes. Donation: $4.



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