Tomatoes are versatile, healthy and the cornerstone of backyard gardens. Cloverfields Farm & Kitchen's Janine Washle shows how to make everything from appetizers to dessert with tomatoes.
Tomatoes are the most popular garden plant with 85% of American gardens growing all sorts of tomatoes. In fact, Americans consume 80 pounds of tomatoes a year. Tomatoes have captured attention literally since they were discovered in the 1400's by Christopher Columbus. Originally thought to be poisonous and have the ability to attract werewolves, tomatoes were grown for decoration and curiosity's sake.
In America, Thomas Jefferson started serving them at dinners in the early 1800's. It wasn't until Colonel Robert Gibbons ate an entire bushel on the courthouse steps in Salem, Massachusetts that people started seeing the merits of the tomato. Tomato factoids abound and some of the more interesting ones are:
Ohio's official state drink is tomato juice.
The vining pink tomato is Arkansas' official state vegetable.
Lycopene in tomatoes is said to fight against cancer.
Lycopene is fully accessible only after cooking the tomato.
California is the largest producer of processed tomatoes in the world.
Tomatoes lose flavor if the temperature drops below 55 degrees; therefore, don't store in the refrigerator.
The Creoles of South Louisiana were the first to wholeheartedly embrace cooking with tomatoes.
South Carolina was the first state to cultivate tomatoes.
While it is generally agreed that lycopene is a powerful cancer fighting cartenoid, the controversy over solanine in green tomatoes still exists. Solanine is a bitter compound that in certain quantities, and therein lies the debate, can be toxic even fatal. It appears that no matter which side of the fence one is on, once cooked, most agree that the solanine level is reduced to a manageable state. Solanine is at its' highest levels in rock hard green tomatoes. Green tomatoes that are just starting to get a little pinkish hue on the top have less, but once they turn red the solanine levels drop dramatically.
Green tomato dishes especially the iconic fried green tomatoes are associated with southern cooking. Enjoy in moderation the tangy lemon-like flavor of green tomatoes for a unique eating experience. Following are a couple favorite recipes from around the country; one with red and the other using green tomatoes.
Loveless Café's Fried Green Tomato BLT
(Loveless Café, Nashville, TN)
1 large green tomato, sliced
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
2 slices wheat berry bread, toasted
3 to 4 strips cooked bacon
Season tomato slices with salt and pepper and dredge in cornmeal.
Heat the canola oil in a skillet and fry the tomatoes until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels.
Spread the mayonnaise on the toast. Add lettuce, bacon, and fried green tomatoes.
Use a very sharp bread knife to cut the sandwich into halves.
Classic Tomato Soup
(adapted from Fine Cooking, Online)
2 TB extra-virgin olive oil
1 TB unsalted butter
1 large white onion, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, smashed and peeled
2 TB all purpose flour
3 cups low-salt chicken broth
28-oz. can whole peeled plum tomatoes, puréed (include the juice)
1-1/2 tsp sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a non-aluminum large Dutch oven, heat the oil and butter over medium-low heat until the butter melts. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft but not browned, about 8 minutes. Add the flour and stir to coat the onion and garlic.
Add the broth, tomatoes, sugar, and 1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat while stirring the mixture to make sure that the flour is not sticking to the bottom of the pan. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 40 minutes.
Let cool briefly and then purée in two or three batches in a blender or food processor. Rinse the pot and return the soup to the pot. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Reheat if necessary. Serve warm but not hot.
Cloverfields Farm and Kitchen also has a special Tomato Recipe Booklet available by email. To ask for a complimentary copy, just email Janine Washle at email@example.com
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CloverFields Farm & Kitchen
3720 Mt. Olive Rd.
Hardin Springs Area
Big Clifty, KY 42712
About Janine Washle:
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.