by Christine Baker
When I think of lazy Louisiana summers, the first thing I think of is how much that line is a misnomer. Any respectable southern belle knows that long, hot humid summer days means long cool evenings putting away the abundance of fruit and vegetables that grew all day long in the backyard garden . . . and no respectable southern garden is without tomatoes.
Here in Louisiana, we cook and eat tomatoes as a vegetable. But really, they’re classified as a fruit. I know it just doesn’t seem right. But it’s true. Tomatoes are a fruit because they come from a flower and contain seeds. Tomatoes are as versatile as sausage and tasso. But that’s another story for another day.
My husband grows tomatoes in our garden every year. He likes to rotate varieties. Some years it’s Roma or Heirloom tomatoes. This year it’s creole. His seeds are about twenty-four years old. You heard me right. Every year he dries the seeds from some of the tomatoes and preserves them so he can re-use them in the coming year.
Where did he get his creole tomatoes? I’m glad you asked. Years ago, as a young married couple with a newborn and not much money to spare, we took a weekend summer getaway to the “Quarter” down in New Orleans. We walked the streets along the Mississippi River, listened to street musicians play tunes, ate our fill of beignets at Cafe’ du Monde and visited the open-air Farmer’s Market. His eye caught a little basket of lush, red, vine-ripened creole tomatoes and he couldn’t resist. We’ve been eating them ever since.
Tomatoes are as much a part of Louisiana’s summer as mosquitoes and high humidity. No one escapes one nor the other. As I walked through the garden rows eyeing the plump, green, juicy, not-yet-ripened fruit hanging on the vines and trying to decide which plant to photograph, my mouth watered with anticipation of what’s to come later this summer at our dinner table. This is what the gardener waits for – the satisfaction of good plants producing good fruit to eat. It reminds me of my husband’s saying, “Good eating. Good loving.” Here in Louisiana, you can’t have one without the other: Vines heavy with fruit, tables of abundant fruit/vegetables and cupboards re-stocked for the coming year, all things that make our filled hearts overflow.
If you get a chance, enjoy some delicious homegrown Louisiana tomatoes. You can find some at your local grocery in the fruit/vegetable section or at your local Farmer’s Market.
“Good eating. Good loving.”