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Bonnie Aeschliman: The treat of the homegrown tomato snack

  • Published Wednesday, July 25, 2012, at 7:33 a.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, July 25, 2012, at 7:33 a.m.

Before my friend Bev left for her vacation, she brought me a small bucket of home-grown tomatoes, still warm from the sun, as she did not have time to use them before her trip. The minute Bev left, I knew exactly what I was going to do. I selected a large perfect beefsteak tomato, gave it a quick rinse, grabbed a napkin and the salt shaker and headed outside to the deck.

Reverting back to my childhood, I was going to enjoy this tomato the way I did when I was 10 years old. Now, for those of you who did not grow up on a farm, this may seem a little unusual — perhaps quite odd — but it was very common to eat a tomato in the summer for a snack much like we eat fresh apples nowadays. The method is a little different, however, because the anatomy of a tomato varies from that of an apple. First, you take a small bite out of the blossom-end of the tomato. Then you carefully suck all the fresh tomato juice out, squeezing the tomato gently so the skin does not break. That would make a mess. After the all the juice is devoured, take a bite of the tomato flesh. Then give it a good sprinkling of salt and enjoy it slowly, savoring every bite, sprinkling with more salt as needed. When you get down to the stem end, discard it, wipe off your face with the napkin.

Enjoying a tomato outside on a beautiful summer day is almost like a mini-picnic — one of the simple pleasures of life. With all that said, I must caution you: Do not try this procedure with a commercial tomato: It will not be the same. The tomato must be a home-grown tomato, preferably freshly picked and still warm from the sun to get the full effect.

If you are not growing your own tomatoes and don’t have a friend like Bev to supply you with surplus, check out the farmers markets for locally grown tomatoes. You will find interesting varieties there, along with other seasonal produce. The season is too short not to enjoy our summer treasures.

Here is a question I frequently receive about storing tomatoes.

Q. If I don’t plan to use my tomatoes for a day or two, how do I store them? I usually store them in the refrigerator. Now I am hearing that tomatoes should be stored at room temperature. I thought they would keep longer if refrigerated.

A. According to food scientist Harold McGee, refrigerating tomatoes damages the membranes inside the fruit walls, causing the tomato to lose flavor and allowing them to develop a mealy texture. Storing tomatoes at room temperature is the recommended method if you can use them before they ruin. However, if you must store them in the refrigerator, remove them a day before you plan to use them. The enzymes will reactivate and boost the flavor back up. The best plan is to use those fresh ripe tomatoes right away while they are at their peak flavor.

Bonnie Aeschliman is a certified culinary professional who owns Cooking at Bonnie’s Place in Wichita. For more information, call 316-425-5224 or visit cookingatbonnies.com. To submit a question to Bonnie, e-mail her at bonnie@cookingatbonnies.com.

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