When I was growing up in south Alabama, no one I knew had a backyard vegetable garden and there was no such thing as a farmers’ market. If you wanted peas or squash or okra, you either went to a farm out in the country and picked your own or you visited a farm stand on the side of a dirt road.
In those days, there were no fancy little grape or cherry tomatoes, either. Tomatoes were big and red and usually misshapen. Often, the ugliest tomatoes were the best, with blood-red flesh and not a hint of mealiness. The hard green ones were reserved for either slicing thin and frying or making chow-chow.
Today, just about everyone I know has something edible growing in their yard, whether it’s corn or butterbeans or a single pot of herbs on the deck.
At our house close to downtown Tupelo, we have lots of 75-year-old trees that provide tons of shade in our yard. And while we don’t get a tremendous amount of sun, we get just enough to successfully grow basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage, mint, chives and cherry tomatoes.
In past years, we grew red and yellow grape tomatoes from seed and we did OK with those. We didn’t have an abundance – rarely enough to share – from our two plants, but I’d say every couple of days we’d get a handful.
This year, my husband, Charlie, planted cherry tomatoes from seed and culled two hearty plants from the seedlings that sprouted. He put one plant in a raised bed in our courtyard and another in a big pot in the middle of the backyard.
Both of these prolific plants produce little orange cherry tomatoes that are sugar-sweet. We don’t use any kind of sprays or pesticides, so we can eat them right off the vine. Every day, we probably get a dozen or more tomatoes and there are hundreds more that aren’t ripe yet.
Roasting is one way to use up cherry tomatoes quickly. I roasted some on Friday night and served them atop grilled salmon. They were the star of the show.
3 cups cherry tomatoes, any color
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 225 degrees. Place the tomatoes, oil, garlic, basil, thyme, salt and pepper in a large ovenproof skillet or gratin dish. Gently toss to coat all the tomatoes with the oil, garlic and herbs. Roast on the middle rack for 1 to 11⁄2 hours, or until the tomatoes are beginning to burst and are very soft. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Ginna Parsons is the Daily Journal’s food/home/garden editor.