Suzanne Corbett, Food/Travel Editor, STLSportsPage.com
Cards fans know what time of year it is. It’s salsa time. Time to make tomato salsa and cheer on the Cards in the hunt for Red October. But for now, its Red July and August – the peak of the tomato season. Time to check out the farm markets and stock up where you’ll find Big Boys, Pink Ladies, Mortgage Lifters or multi- colored heirloom varieties.
St Louis’ area farmers have the tomatoes you crave. Among the farm markets dotting the greater St Louis is Soulard Market, the oldest continually operating community farm market west of the Mississippi, is considered a destination not to mention the epicenter for homegrown tomatoes
To get the pick of the crop and to immerse yourself in the total market experience plan to shop on Saturday, the day the market booms with activity. Street musicians entertain while the sounds of vendors hawking their goods ring out over the crowds who stroll through the market’s four wings that converge into the Grand Hall. Market tip Arrive early. And don’t forget to bring an extra shopping bag or basket to help carry home the bevy of tomatoes along with the other great market buys.
In spite of the hot dry summer Missouri’s tomatoes are yielding a good crop. Backyard gardeners are delighted to see their tomato crop ripen. However, before you pick, it pays to know when to pick to get the best tomato. Don’t leave them on the vine too long waiting for the perfect ripe color. Tomatoes often crack when left on the vine too long. Once the weather begins to cool and daytime temperatures stay below 60 degrees tomatoes will not ripen on the vine, so you may have baskets of green tomatoes to contend with. Just pick them and bring them inside to ripen.
Green tomatoes ripened easily by placing them on a sunny windowsill. On the farm we always wrapped individual green tomatoes in newspaper and layered in a box, no more than 2 layers deep. Place the box in a dark, dry spot. It usually takes 3-4 weeks for the green tomatoes to ripen but check frequently and remove any fruits that show signs of rotting.
When selecting tomatoes at the market, use your nose. Smell the blossom (the bottom) end. The most flavorful ones will have a rich tomato aroma. Select tomatoes that are round, full and feel heavy for their size, with no bruises or blemishes. The skin should be smooth, tight, and not shriveled. Store fresh ripe tomatoes in a cool, dark place, stem-side down, and use within a few days.
Tomato salsa tips that will make you a winner.
1: Choose fresh tomatoes that are meaty such as Roma or Beefsteak varieties and of course, always use vine ripen when available.
2: Deseed tomatoes before making your salsa. If you don’t deseed your salsa will become watery.
3:Let it marinate for at least an hour to combine the flavors. However, remember the longer it sets the souper it will become.
4: Brighten the flavor of your salsa with a splash of wine or red wine vinegar.
5: A use fresh herbs. Fresh cilantro, in my opinion, makes salsa sing.
Fresh Tomato Salsa/ Pico de Gallo
1 ½ pounds fresh tomatoes, seeded and shopped
1 cup chopped white onion
2 serrano or 1 jalapeño chili, chopped
2 tables of white vinegar
½ cup chopped cilantro
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
Place all the above ingredients into a food processor and pulse a few time to combine and roughly blend together. Season to taste with salt and vinegar. Serve garnished with chopped cilantro. Makes 3-4 cups
Quick Garden Gazpacho
2 cucumbers, diced
3 large tomatoes, diced
1 red pepper, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 1/2 cups tomato juice
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
Juice of 1 lime
In large glass or ceramic bowl, combine vegetables. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Add half the mixture a food processor and blend until smooth. Combine puree with remaining vegetable mixture. Chill for 4 hours and serve.