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CSA Scout: 'We're All in Tomato Heaven'

Last week's CSA boxes from Good Fortune Farm, Bull Run Mountain Farm, Olin-Fox Farms and Spiral Path Farm. (Betsy Bajwa, Sharyn Fitgerald, Rita Fox, Michelle Forman)

It took a while, but tomatoes have started showing up in our CSA Scouts' boxes, and none too soon. Many exclamation points accompany descriptions of them, and for good reason: Nothing says summer the way a tomato does.

Just in case all our recent ideas about what to do with them, including our Top Tomato recipe contest finalists and Bonnie Benwick's great Bumper Crop post, haven't been enough, I'll throw another one out there. This is the time of year when I can't stop buying tomatoes at the farmers markets, when my own community-supported agriculture box from Karl's Farm includes at least four or five, and when my own tomatoes are finally starting to ripen in my community garden plot. When I begin to tire of using them in salsas and pasta sauces, I think about how soon it will be before I won't have any good ones at all. Then I slow-roast some more.

So far, I've got two half-pint jars of these oven-concentrated tomato halves covered with olive oil in my refrigerator. I'll use them for bruschetta and for pasta dishes, but I have one rule: I won't touch them until I can't get any more fresh, local tomatoes. That's what "putting up" is all about, isn't it?

Here's what our CSA Scouts have to say about last week's bounty:

Betsy Bajwa, Bethesda
Whole share from Good Fortune Farm, Brandywine.

In the box: 1 dozen certified organic eggs (now that the new hens have taken over, the eggs are mostly just large or a touch smaller than large); 2 over-full quarts of tomatoes (small to large); 3 pounds of German Butterball potatoes; 1 head of garlic; a good amount of a variety of small to medium green peppers; about 1/2 to 3/4 pound of okra
Meals and cooking plans: Thus far we’ve had: green pepper in salad and a very nice lemony potato salad that used up all the potatoes. Plans for the rest of the week: Hmm… I haven’t been in a planning mood yet so may look for a new okra recipe to try something different. Planning to make some tomato sauce -- maybe the Post’s winning recipe from last year that I’ve been meaning to try? Last week’s share: Not a single thing left -- I really do focus on the vegetables during CSA season and hate to see anything go to waste, and with five of us that’s not that difficult.

Sharyn Fitzgerald, South Arlington
"Bushel" (large four-person share) from Bull Run Mountain Farm, The Plains.

In the box: 4 ears of corn, 2 heads of garlic, all we can eat of Thai basil and Italian basil, 2 large heirloom tomatoes, 10 small/medium heirloom tomatoes, 40 ground cherries, 14 blue potatoes, 8 okra, 8 hot peppers, 2 eggplant, 1 bunch chives
Meals and cooking plans: The tomatoes have arrived! We had three varieties in our share this week, and all were great! I made a large batch of salsa using the large heirloom tomato and some smaller green ones, along with a couple of the peppers and some of the garlic. More basil pesto this week. The blue potatoes were great, quartered and roasted in olive oil. Toward the end of the roast, I added chopped chives from this week’s share, some parsley from our garden and some capers. Really delicious! The quantities have definitely increased in the past couple of weeks, and it’s great to have such a variety of produce to experiment with. Plus, we’re all in tomato heaven! My neighbor Caroline grilled one of the eggplant (a long, thin Chinese variety) and said that she found it a bit too bitter. Her husband enjoyed it, though!

Michelle Forman, Silver Spring
Two adults
Medium share from Spiral Path Farm, Perry County, Pa.
$413 (25 weeks)

In the box: 1 head Boston lettuce, 1 red melon, 1 cucumber, 1 zucchini, 1 squash, 2 red onions, 1 bunch cilantro (my favorite!), 1 green pepper, 4 plum tomatoes, 2 red tomatoes, 2 heirloom tomatoes, 1 Asian eggplant
Meals and cooking plans: Melon was delicious! Cut up and eaten plain. Lettuce was used on salads and sandwiches. I made a tomato salad using some of the tomatoes, one onion, cucumber and some cilantro. Then I made a roasted salsa using some tomatoes, the rest of the cilantro, green pepper and some corn and garlic. And I made a pasta dish with a homemade pesto -- my husband's pasta had a quick saute of tomatoes and garlic, while my pasta had sauteed zucchini, squash and eggplant. It worked out great! I ate some of the sauteed squash, zucchini and eggplant for lunch as well. I tossed the last onion in with some pickles that I made.
I wrote a post on my blog about how my CSA experience is going so far since I am just past midway through my membership.

Rita Fox, Triangle
Two adults
Share from Olin-Fox Farms, Reedville, Va.
$396 (9 weeks)

In the box: 1 huge cantaloupe (22-inch circumference; very sweet, in a good way -- perfectly ripe); 4 figs (love them! Why can't we get more of these instead of peppers or cucumbers?); 1 (dreaded) cucumber; 1 bag (groan-inducing) pepper mix; 1 bag sungold/olive tomatoes; 6 large tomatoes; 6 ears white sweet corn (oh so sweet!); 1 bunch parsley; 2 long sprigs rosemary
Meals and cooking plans: We each had three corn with veggie burgers on Thursday night (pickup day). On Friday, I made a pasta with three of the tomatoes, all of the Sungold/olive tomatoes and a broccoli crown, all topped with parsley. Fresh tomatoes cooked down makes the best sauce: some meaty tomato with just enough juice to coat the pasta without dominating the dish. Last week's cucumber is still in the refrigerator. I should stop pretending I will eat it and just throw it outside for the bunnies or deer.
Other thoughts: We didn't get much produce to make meals, but we enjoyed the flavors of the corn and cantaloupe individually. Everything looked freshly picked. Parsley never tasted so good!

Sarah Husain, Columbia
Two adults
Full share (eight items) from One Straw Farm, White Hall.
$485 (24 weeks)

In the box: 10 ears of corn that were delicious but on their way out (browning at the tops), 3 green peppers, 4 tomatoes (finally!), 3 1/2 heads of garlic, two 5-pound bags of red potatoes and a watermelon!
Meals and cooking plans: I made a quinoa dish with green peppers and the leftover broccoli and squash I'd defrosted. I had to snap the tops off every cob of corn, but what was left was good. I cooked all the corn with a pack of turkey bacon for a great side. I ate most of the tomatoes plain with various combinations of salt, pepper, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and queso fresco. The tomatoes were fantastic, but we had to comb over the options pretty well as most of them were split and kind of sad. We are also eating the very delicious watermelon slowly. The garlic is getting tossed in wherever possible; I think they're trying to get rid of it since one item is now 3-4 heads rather than just one. Not complaining. The kind of bounty we got this week is why we joined the CSA. It's already August and kids are heading back to school, but now it feels like summer with our tomatoes and watermelon.
Other thoughts: Follow-up from last week: The unripe cantaloupe started rotting from the inside out and never really ripened, so that was disappointing and weird. We also ate the green peppers plain in lunches. We are slowly working through our increasing potato backlog but aren't too worried. One evening, we had "breakfast for dinner" and had fantastic home fries by boiling the potatoes, then pan-frying them.

-- Joe Yonan

By Joe Yonan  |  August 31, 2009; 2:00 PM ET
Categories:  CSA Scout  | Tags: CSA, Joe Yonan  
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