Home Columns & Editorials Iva's Input ‘Tis the Season?!

‘Tis the Season?!


“Tis the season!
For just about everything, I guess.  The other day, a container of blueberries and two squash magically appeared on my front porch sitting on some literature from the Jehovah’s Witnesses or some other well-meaning group and next to the comic strip umbrella from the AB-J.  Tasty stuff!  Then the model neighbors on the corner (You know who you are, Wittes) appeared with a tender little summer squash and a trio of blackberries that could have filled half a cup (We’ll never know now, will we?)
This is all good news.   My usual summer stash of assorted fruits and berries   has been sort of truncated this year because while my favorites—strawberries, rhubarb, black raspberries, etc.– were at the peak of their seasons, it was either pouring down rain or so bloody hot that I wasn’t about to get into the thick of things and risk hyper-perspiring right there in front of God and everybody.  Not a pretty sight, as my fellow Friends of the Library could attest at our painting project last week.  Which, by-the-by, I got a call about and which prompts me to mention, once again, that the new storage shed was secured from an Amish  source but was placed on a concrete pad designed and built by a crew from the building trades  group at Maplewood Career Center.  Jean Farley  saw the students working on the project and thought that they ought to get the credit that they deserved.  I second the motion.
It’s about time for tomatoes.  I have got about three from the plants  which I got early—with blossoms– at some giant store.  Two or three more plants came from the Schultz green spot and a couple more from a source in Aurora; we’re all about diversity here.   Some beast had the nerve to come during the night and maul one of my little beauties but there’s still hope for the  remaining  fruits (That’s if you’re talking botanically ; they’re vegetables culinarily, so declared by the Supreme Court in 1893, Nix vs Hedden).  They’ve been the official Ohio state fruit since 2009and the official state beverage is tomato juice.
The scientific name is Solanum lycopersicum ( “wolf peach”…something to  do with werewolves in Germany…who knew?) but  other names in other places are really interesting.  The Italians dubbed them pomi d’oro—“apples of gold”.  Germans in some provinces called them paradeisapfel—“apple of Paradise”.  The Aztecs—the “horse’s mouth”, so to speak, since they were likely the original cultivators—referred to them as xitomatl (pronounce THAT, if you dare)—“plump thing with a navel”.   Isn’t that a hoot?  In quite a number of places, people thought that they should be used only as decorative plants, not eaten.  After all, they were related to the deadly nightshade (So are eggplants and potatoes). There used to be a story—probably apocryphal—that a gentleman in, I think it was New Jersey, who was arrested for attempting to commit suicide by eating a bunch of them on the steps of the state capital just to prove that tomatoes were edible.  Actually, Thomas Jefferson had eaten them in France and sent seeds home to Virginia.  He did that a lot, horticulturist that he was.
Anyway, it is long past time for bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches and I certainly hope that a farmers’ market somewhere close will be featuring baskets of genuinely ripe ones.  Buying tomatoes in a commercial establishment is usually pretty futile.  In order to get the “plump thing with a navel” to market from Florida or California or wherever, the poor thing has to be picked at a stage of pitiful immaturity and shipped off to be ripened in storage by being  suffused with ethylene, a gas that signals the coloring to begin.   Not quite the same as snatching a red globe from the vine and eating it with juice dripping down your chin.  Not quite.
I can remember my mom canning jar after Mason jar of tomatoes ( This was to match the peas and green beans and cherries and peaches and Heaven-only-knows-what-else on those shelves.  She was very happy to switch to freezing when the technology arrived, though I don’t know how much work was saved.  Maybe it was just the scariness of the pressure cooker.).  We ate those all winter in various forms, which is why I make Anglo Saxon chili—no chili powder—to this day.  Cream of tomato soup made with home-canned tomatoes is something that I remember still but have never been able to replicate.
Time to stock up on bacon for the execution of the sandwiches, though, in a pinch, salami, p&p loaf, Dutch loaf or ham salad will do.  No bologna/baloney—I had a bad experience with lunch meat on a car trip once; I will only consume it if it’s made into fake ham salad with pickles and mayo.  Lettuce is peripheral, I can take it or leave it, but mayo, salt and pepper are essential for the proper construction  of this iconic summer supper.  Bread is necessary, of course, but it’s an individual preference; do you go with the standard white, whole-grain, Italian, toasted, what?
The whole family could have starved to death without the consumption of tomato sandwiches, unless, indeed, we were able to fill in the corners with sweet corn, WHICH had to be carried from the field at a run, the pot of water having been brought to a boil so that the husked and de-silked ears could be tossed in posthaste.  Butter at the ready, we could eat our sandwiches first then top off with buttered, salted corn usually eaten typewriter-style, left-to-right.  No namby-pamby cornholders for us, nossir!
Maybe that’s why we didn’t go out to eat much.