Tomatoes are one of Janine Washle's favorite subjects not only from a gardening standpoint, but from a historical view. No other fruit has caused such a stir among churches, people, and even the U.S. Supreme Court. She grows many varieties at her Cloverfields Farm & Kitchen in Hardin County, so she is ready to teach WDRB in the Morning about putting up tomatoes for now an later.
Tasty, Tangy, Titillating, adjectives describing tomatoes? Tasty, tangy, yes, but titillating? Oh, yes. According to the authors of one of my favorite southern cookbooks, The Blue Willow Bible of Southern Cooking, "The Catholic Church banned eating ripe tomatoes because the texture of a ripe tomato's skin was similar to the texture of the human skin, and thus, the red tomato was considered an aphrodisiac." Titillating, indeed.
The tomato's history is colorful to say the least. It is unclear whether Cortez or Columbus was the first to bring the tomato to Europe from South America where it originates. Herbalists of the time not really knowing what it was except that it was a fruit called it "Pomo D'oro" or "Golden Apple" as most tomatoes of the time were actually yellow.When the French discovered it, they called it "Pomme A'mour" or "Love Apple". While the Italians and French had alluring names for the fruit, Germans were fearful of the tomato because their werewolf legends told that eating the fruit of the nightshade plant would summon werewolves. They called the tomato "wolf peach" because of it's resemblance to the small yellow fruit of the nightshade plant.
When tomatoes finally reached Great Britain, the uproar became even greater when a botanist declared them unfit to eat because, again, they were a member of the nightshade family. But, by the mid-1800's it was recorded that tomatoes were being consumed in soups and sauces. In North America, tomatoes were popularized after Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson stood on the Old Salem courthouse steps in Salem, New Jersey and bit into a tomato to prove they were safe and after his fearless act, finally, tomatoes were met with great favor.
Botanically, though, tomatoes truly are members of the nightshade family and leaves and stems which contain solanine, are indeed poisonous if eaten. Unripe green tomatoes also contain solanine and are considered somewhat toxic; therefore, to make the famous dish Fried Green Tomatoes, it is best to wait until the tomato starts turning slightly pink which indicates the solanine levels are so low as to not cause any problems. Enough with all the toxic talk; tomatoes are very high in antioxidants due to lycopene.
Lycopene is in the red part of the tomato. Again the tomato bucks the norm because most antioxidants are highest in a fruits' or vegetables's raw state, yet with the tomato the lycopene levels are highest when it is cooked.
Because early explorers were confused as to how to actually use a tomato, early cooks used it in a savory manner even though it is a fruit. Fruit is defined as the fleshy part of a plant that contains the seeds. Tariffs were imposed on vegetables in the late 1800's so when legislators realized they were missing out on tariffs on the popular tomatoes, they took the matter to court. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that because tomatoes were mainly consumed in a savory way, that from a legal standpoint, they were to be considered vegetables. This was only to be used as an interpretation of the Tariff Act of 1883. Indeed, there are many fruits that we enjoy as vegetables such as squashes of all kinds, cucumbers, avocados, and eggplants.
Regardless of their hazy past, run-ins with the church, and political troubles, vine-ripened tomatoes are truly the taste of summer.
(adapted from a recipe in Blue Willow Bible of Southern Cooking)
1 8 oz package cream cheese, room temperature
½ cup sour cream
1 packet Ranch-style salad dressing
1 tsp granulated sugar
¼ tsp cracked black pepper
1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
6 crispy bacon slices, drained, chopped
½ cup chopped romaine lettuce
In a medium bowl, stir together cream cheese, sour cream, and ranch dressing packet. Add sugar, and black pepper. Finally stir in tomato, bacon, and lettuce. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve with crackers, croustini, crunchy vegetables.
Fried Red Tomatoes
8 slices of thick cut bacon
3 large ripe but firm tomatoes
3 cups finely crushed cornbread stuffing (Pepperidge Farms)
4 eggs, beaten
½ cup finely chopped Vidalia onion
¼ cup finely chopped parsley
Fry bacon in a large cast iron skillet until crispy. Pat dry, crumble, set aside. Save drippings.
Slice stem and blossom ends from tomatoes then slice into thick rounds (3-4 per tomato). Pat dry if necessary.
Spread stuffing on a plate and put beaten eggs in a shallow bowl. Dredge tomato slices in crushed stuffing, dip in egg, dredge again in stuffing. Place slices in hot cast iron skillet, be sure not to crowd slices or they will steam instead of fry. Add canola oil to skillet if drippings get low.
Put cooked slices on a baking sheet in a warm oven to hold. Continue until all slices are fried.
Arrange slices on a platter, sprinkle crumbled bacon, chopped onion and chopped parsley over all. Serve immediately with pork chops and macaroni and cheese.
No Cook Tomato Sauce and Pasta
4 cups seeded and chopped tomatoes (colored varieties work nicely)
1 cup finely chopped sweet onion
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup torn basil leaves
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp sea salt
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 package angel hair pasta, cooked al dente
Freshly grated parmesan cheese
In a large bowl combine tomatoes, onion and garlic. Stir together and let marinate for 30 minutes. Add basil, black pepper, and olive oil. Stir in pasta. Adjust salt. To serve: Place a portion onto a shallow bowl and top with parmesan cheese.
TIP: Essentially, this is a salad. Save the leftovers and enjoy later.
FREE TOMATO RECIPE BOOKLET!
Cloverfields Farm and Kitchen also has a special Tomatoe Recipe Booklet available by email. To ask for a complimentary copy, just email Janine Washle at email@example.com
To find Cloverfields Farm & Kitchen on Facebook: click here.
CloverFields Farm & Kitchen
3720 Mt. Olive Rd.
Hardin Springs Area
Big Clifty, KY 42712
Janine Washle and her family live at the Cloverfields Farm and Kitchen in Big Clifty, Kentucky in Hardin County. CloverFields Farm & Kitchen, part of a century old farmstead, is our home and business. The McGuffin house, the original farmhouse, is a registered state landmark. CloverFields Farm has a prosperous farming history. They are continuing this rural story in their own unique way by the addition of CloverFields Kitchen a place to explore the past through food and merge it with our modern lifestyles.
CloverFields Farm is dedicated to the preservation of southern, especially Kentucky, food traditions. The kitchen is commercially-outfitted compliant with Health Department standards. In this kitchen I develop new recipes based on original ideas, inspirations from my culinary research, and most often according to what is in season.
On the farm, they make many gifts and specialty items. She is currently working on her first cookbook, but she also has a long resume developing recipes for several companies. She has also won several contests and cook-offs with her original recipes.