Ah! Tomatoes...bounty from the garden as summer turns to fall.
This has been a favorite food of mine since childhood, and I especially enjoyed tomatoes as they ripened on the vine. We ate many of these freshly sliced with a dab of mayonnaise or salt and pepper. Father liked his tomatoes sprinkled with sugar.

The other day my daughter wondered if they had fresh tomatoes and sweet corn at the local farm stand. She came home laden with both. So we've been enjoying a garden feast.

An Ancient Food

Tomatoes grew wild thousands of years ago in early civilizations of South America, particularly Equator and Peru. Then this plant, actually classified as a fruit, was taken to Central America and Mexico. In some areas it was called the "tomatl."

When the Spaniards explored this area in the 1500s, they carried the tomato back to their country. The Spanish and Italians enjoyed this food and often stewed it or made sauces.

However, when the tomato was taken to England, it wasn't very popular. Some people even considered it poisonous. However, eventually this food became popular, especially when made into soups, stews, and sauces. It's believed the early tomato was more tasty cooked than raw for the delectable varieties of today hadn't been developed.

Tomatoes in America

Tomatoes came full circle as settlers to this country brought this fruit with them and began using it in their diets. Eventually a canning industry grew up in this country and the tomato became popular year round, not just during the summer gardening season.

Although we ate many tomatoes fresh from the garden, Mother canned quantities of them for winter use. This was a summer activity that wasn't so pleasurable, but one that was necessary. Come winter, we were glad we had the cans of tomatoes in the cellar.

STUFFED TOMATOES - This is a tasty way to prepare tomatoes which lends itself to great variety. Cut out the stem end of an unpeeled tomato. Slice the tomato into quarters or eights about three fourths of the way down, but don't the cut the tomato apart entirely. Some cooks prefer to scoop out the center of the tomato and then filling it.

Use any variety of fillings: cottage cheese, tuna salad, egg salad, potato salad, cole slaw, chicken salad, three bean salad, shrimp salad, etc. Serve on lettuce and parsley. Accompany with pickles, radishes, scallions, and/or olives.

SLICED TOMATOES - My mother often served sliced tomatoes on leaf lettuce from the garden. She might slice cucumbers or onion over this or serve with scallions. Then she'd spread lightly with mayonnaise or salad dressing. Father always sprinkled his with sugar.

You can top the sliced tomatoes with any of the fillings used for stuffed tomatoes.

Some people like the sliced tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers sprinkled
with salt and pepper, olive oil, and vinegar.

FRIED GREEN TOMATOES was a favorite of my dad and the hired man.

Mother dipped green tomato slices in beaten egg, then flour and sprinkled with salt and pepper. She fried first on one side and then the other until the slices were browned and tender. Serve hot.

(c)2003 Mary Emma Allen

(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. Visit her web site: http://homepage.fcgnetworks.net/jetent/mea; E-mail: [email protected])