Celebrating Summer Tomatoes

Blush and Sun Gold cherry tomatoes are still producing lots of fruit in our garden, even though the plant looks a bit bedraggled.

This is the height of summer tomato season and local chefs are making the most of this time of year.  Buzz reader Amanda Parsons told us this week that she had an incredible meal inspired by local tomatoes at Marino Ristorante.

According to Parsons, Marino is serving up Tomato Wednesdays through the tomato season.

“I might never had such taste treats. The heirlooms are all picked ripe off the vine from Chef Sal’s own garden.  Every bite of the dishes he prepares with them–the exquisite tomato-based sauces from multiple varieties that he uses — pull the freshest flavor from his incredible straight-from-the-market fish. The ways he presents raw tomatoes to enhance his Italian classics and his perfect buffalo mozzarella, the delightful combinations of sweet and tang that these tomatoes impart to both simple and complex Classic Italian fare — is a culinary revelation,  if not a revolution.

My husband, who has never been much of a tomato fan, is now enraptured by what can be achieved with this fruit in the hands of a master chef who clearly loves his produce enough to grow it, honor his harvest in his kitchen and proudly serve it to those of us privileged to take advantage of this local gem of a restaurant.

In addition to the taste, every plate is a colorful feast for the eyes, presented so beautifully that it almost seems a shame to defile it with a fork and knife.

Not to  be missed!”  — Amanda Parsons

Heirloom tomatoes from seedlings purchased from Tomatomania at the Hancock Park Garden Club’s Pop-Up Plant Sale last spring

If you planted tomatoes in the late spring, you should be enjoying them now. We planted some in late March and early April that we got from Tomatomania at the Hancock Park Garden Club’s pop up plant sale. And we’ve been delighted with our crops, though we are certainly not overwhelmed with fruit.  Turns out it’s hard to accumulate an abundance of tomatoes when everyone in the household eats them right off the vine.

To be fair, that’s the best way to enjoy summer tomatoes: just picked, slightly warm from the sun, and with some fresh basil, preferrably planted right next to your tomatoes.

According to a recent story in the LA Times, Tomatomania founder Scott Daigre told reporter Lisa Boone that many tomatoes are peaking early this year, so it might even be time to consider planning for the fall.  Daigre said the early bloom may be attributed to people planting earlier, warm temperatures in May and, of course, the winter rains that activated the soil. The peak of summer tomatoes is now through the first week in August, so Daigre recommends planting new plants now and putting a young seedling near a more established plant to shade it from the hot summer heat.
But if you didn’t plant any tomatoes this year, or your tomato plants don’t produce enough for your family and friends, then you can enjoy them from our local farmers markets. We are fortunate to have the Larchmont Farmers Market so close but the Hollywood Farmers Market, which is significantly larger,  is well worth the trip on a Sunday morning. The Wellington Square Farmers Market, also on Sunday mornings, provides a much more intimate experience.  And during the week, there’s a farmers market on Wilshire in the Miracle Mile, near Museum Square…as well as and countless others around the city — maybe even one near your office, so you can re-supply mid-week. And, delightfully, even the grocery store is full of really good, sweet tomatoes at this time of year.
If you want to plant tomatoes now for the winter:

“Look for small or mid-sized short season tomatoes: Early Girl, Champion, Carmello, Taxi, Jaune Flamme, Stupice heirloom. Nurseries won’t be offering the beefsteaks. Tomatoes should be smaller than a baseball — cherry tomatoes, Sun Golds, Sweet 100s,” Daigre told the LA Times.

If you’re lucky,  you can keep the sweet taste of summer going until November.

Russian Queen takes to growing up a trellis
Staggered planting means these plants have a few more weeks to reach their peak.

About Patricia Lombard

Patricia Lombard is the co-editor and publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, “Larchmont” for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier’s Books.

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