Country Kitchen: Tomato Time in the Kitchen

Country Kitchen: Tomato Time in the Kitchen

By Mary Emma Allen

Although we find tomatoes in the grocery year round these days, years ago they were found fresh only in growing season. Then they came straight from the garden or from a farm stand. Those found in groceries usually had come from a local garden.

A friend recalls her family in Massachusetts raising vegetables and taking them, early in the morning, to the Farmers' Market in the city. There anyone without a garden could buy their fresh tomatoes.

Canning Tomatoes in Childhood

Canning tomatoes was a summer activity when I was growing up. Much as I enjoyed eating tomatoes fresh from the garden, I soon tired of picking, blanching, peeling, and canning tomatoes on hot summer days.

I've come across a diary I kept when I was a freshman/sophomore in high school. Throughout the summer the entries note that we (Mother, Sister, sometimes a neighbor lady and I) canned various vegetables and fruits. When it was too hot in our farmhouse kitchen, with the woodstove going to heat the canner, we moved the table out to the yard to prepare our vegetables and eat meals.

If we wanted ample winter food, we knew there was no other choice but to can fruit, vegetables, and meat during the hot days of summer. In those days, we didn't have the handy home freezers.

Tomato History

Tomatoes were raised more than 1,000 years ago by the American Indians. Then they were taken to the Old World by the Spanish explorers, who found this food growing and used in the Americas.

They were raised in Spain. But for a long time tomatoes were considered poisonous throughout many countries in Europe. It took quite awhile before they were accepted widely as an edible food.

Tomatoes were used extensively in Mexican and Creole cookery, where Spanish and French settlers brought their recipes. The natives of Central America also used tomatoes long before the Spanish arrived. Nowadays, they are used in many European recipes as well as American ones.

Tomato a Fruit

Actually the tomato is a fruit, when classified scientifically. It's delicious when eaten raw, fresh from the vine, in salads, and in slices. This "fruit" also can be made into sauces, pastes, ketchups, purees, chilies.

It's tasty, too, when added to soups, stews, fish dishes, noodle and rice bakes and to dressings.

GREEN BEANS & TOMATOES - Cook 1 pound green beans, covered, in small amount of boiling, salted water until just tender. Meantime, melt 2 tablespoons butter in skillet and stir in 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar (according to taste, depending on acidity of tomatoes), dash of salt, and 4 cups chopped peeled tomatoes.

Cook over low heat until liquid has boiled down, turning tomatoes frequently to glaze on all sides. Drain the beans and serve topped with tomatoes. Serves 4.

Article (C) 2004 Mary Emma Allen

About the Author

Mary Emma Allen has been writing cooking columns for 40 years. She and her family compiled a cookbook to preserve their food heritage. She teaches workshops to show others how to do this, along with scrapbooking their family recipes. Visit her web site for more cooking articles. Contact her at

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