Text and photographs are © by Ellen Spector Platt & Ellen Zachos, all rights reserved.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

You say tomato, I say tomaccio!

It has not been a good year for tomatoes in this part of the country.

Even my container-grown plants in PA, unaffected by late blight, petered out in the cool and the damp. Our CSA, usually a reliable source of tomato bounty, notified its members at the end of July that they had removed and destroyed their entire crop, per advice of the local Coop Extension agent. So while the wet weather produced a bumper crop of edible mushrooms (for which I am extremely grateful), I'm left feeling like it wasn't really summer.

How can it be summer without tomatoes? No ratatouille, no caprese salads, no cherry tomatoes popped into the mouth like candy on the way home from the farmers' market. And when you do find a few at a farm stand, they're not the warm, ripe-to-bursting kind of tomato you expect to find in September. Instead, they're less than fully red, picked a little too soon in hopes of avoiding blight or to satisfy the demand of a clientele that can't accept a summer sans tomatoes.

And yet...high above the streets of New York City are a few healthy tomato plants, added to a client's garden at the last minute because he wanted to try something edible this year. Tomato plants sent gratis to this grateful garden writer in hopes that I might tout the new variety, due to arrive on the U.S. market next year. Tomato plants that gave me the only truly sun-ripened fruit I've had all summer. Thank you, Tomaccio!

Tomaccio is a cherry tomato, bred in Israel to be the sweetest of all cherry tomatoes. (Not having done a side-by-side-by-side comparison, I cannot comment on this claim.) It has also been bred for drying, and its sweetness is supposed to be intensified when dry. The skin is thicker than the skin of your average cherry tomato, which bugged me a little (just a little!) when I ate them fresh. Almost immediately I forgot that petty criticism, so grateful was I for the taste of fresh, ripe tomato.

In fact, it's the thick skin that's supposed to allow Tomaccio to dry on the vine, turning into sort of a tomato raisin. Normal, thin-skinned tomatoes will rot on the vine if left too long.

My clients were away for the month of August, peak harvest season for Tomaccio. I nibbled on a few, and decided to leave the rest to vine-dry, putting Tomaccio to the test. The day before my clients' return I went to do a final garden clean-up and I was stunned to find every tomato gone! Had the painters eaten them for lunch? Had beefy New York pigeons flown away clutching the fruit in their talons? No, Maria, the conscientious housekeeper had picked them all, thinking they were going bad. Fortunately she saved them to show me, and I brought them home to dry in the oven. Tomaccio's press release says to dry them for 3 hours at 100 degrees F. I put my gas oven on Low, and in 4 hours had mini "sun"-dried tomatoes. Once dry, the skin is no longer noticeably thick, and the taste is sweet and tomato-y.

In the meantime, more Tomaccio continues to redden on the vine, and I look forward to a few sun-ripened nibbles as I garden through the fall.

4 comments:

Ellen Spector Platt said...

So, you coudn't even save your favorite blog partner a taste?
I planted the 'Tomaccio' on my roof garden but the little kids in the building plucked them for eating as soon as they began to show red, so I got nary a one.

I can't believe that plowing under crops with Late Blight is recommended.
I would have thought burning would be better. Your thoughts please.

new york city garden said...

Plowing under struck me too and I thought maybe this is just a farmers term for get rid of em. If blight is in the soil now, I suppose it will always be there -just waiting for the right conditions.

I really don't want to throw out my potted tomato soil, or the wooden pots where my blight lives year to year. So I've lived with it, getting what I can before they succumb.

Dried tomatoes on the vine sounds nice.

Ellen Zachos said...

Totally my bad! I went back and re-read our farmer's blog post and here's what she said: "We consulted with the Cornell Vegetable Specialist for our area and we were advised to remove and destroy all of the plant material from the tomato crop and take down all of the potato vines."

No plowing under! I'm going back to change the text now!

Georgia said...

Not a (sun-)dried tomato fan but the toms in your photo look delicious.

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