You Say Tomato…

I’m trying to decide if it’s worth my while to make tomato sauce. Mostly, I’m put off by the fear of canning, what with the risk of botulism and all. I could make tomato sauce and freeze it – there’s still some room in my little freezer, despite being packed full of the best of the summer from fiddleheads and asparagus to corn and blackberries. However, the corporate food processes being what they are, it would inevitably be cheaper for me to buy canned tomato sauce through the winter as I need it than buy 20 pounds of tomatoes and make my own sauce from fresh local fruit. It’s a conundrum. Despite how much I actually enjoy blanching and peeling tomatoes, the cost makes the canned storebought stuff more attractive, and might potentially be beating up my ethical, foodie side.

At present I’ve got a few pounds of Romas bought from the farmers market and intended for what turned out to be the best sandwich ever – a soft ciabatta loaf with fresh basil leaves from my windowsill “garden”, a crazy expensive ball of real buffalo mozzarella and some lovely thin-sliced prosciutto, drizzed with olive oil and fleurs de sel. And of course, the aforementioned tomatoes, sliced thinly.

I had planned to use the rest to make tomato sauce, but I’m intrigued by the tomato jam recipe in this past Saturday’s Toronto Star, and according to Tara at Seven Spoons, it’s pretty awesome stuff.

Finally in tomato stories, friends and regular readers will remember that I live in a highrise, directly above a daycare centre at the back of the building. The entrance to this daycare centre is through a small courtyard in which the lunch lady of the daycare has created a spectacular (and relatively secret) garden. Primarily, she has planted flowers; everything from roses to peonies, with plenty of shade-loving plants like hostas and lily of the vally, because it is a fairly dark little corner.

But a few weeks ago, I noticed that she had also planted some tomatoes, tucked in behind everything else, to hopefully keep tiny little jam-covered toddler hands from picking the things. This past long weekend, one of her tomatoes became ripe. I peered out my kitchen window, longing for it, and even joked about sneaking out there and stealing it, despite having my own haul of market tomatoes which more than filled my needs.

It just kept calling me; that bright red orb against the green on the stalk and leaves. I resisted, but this morning the tomato had fallen off. I could see it on the ground from my window. The lunch lady was out there this morning watering her garden and plucked a ripe tomato off another plant on the other side of the courtyard. She walked past the fallen tomato a dozen times, even soaking it with the hose unknowingly. I determined that it the fallen tomato was still there this evening, after everyone at the daycare had left, I would go and “rescue” the tomato, lest it go bad, sitting on the wet ground.

While I was out walking the dogs, she must have found it. I’m kind of disappointed. I’m not a thief, by any means, and I have plenty of tomatoes in the house. I didn’t need that one at all. It probably wasn’t even an especially tasty variety. But just the way it hung off the branch and glowed in the morning sunlight like a huge ruby… it triggered some covetousness in me that I can’t explain.

I think I should make some jam and keep my mind on my own tomatoes.