The first tomato, and the last for awhile.

by threegirlpileup

Okay, technically not the first tomato.  Before I plucked this one, we’d had a few sweet-like-candy sungolds.  But this was the first full-size ripe tomato.

It appeared just over a week ago, on the day before we were headed to upstate New York through the end of July.  It was a thrill to get to pick at least one red tomato before we headed off, and I immediately used it to make a favorite sandwich–tomato plus basil plus white cheese (in this case soft chevre, often fresh mozzarella), with a dash of olive oil and balsalmic vinegar.  The quintessential summer sandwich, and one I’d eaten often over the previous week.

And then we packed up and said good-bye to the garden, and all the seasonal produce that is arriving full-force in North Carolina.  And thus is the trade-off of our trip up north.  One of the many joys of heading to our little corner of central New York is the blessedly cool weather.  By late June, North Carolina is blisteringly hot.  When we arrive in New York, we often need to pull out our sweaters and jeans again.  So, not surprisingly, we also experience a little seasonal backtracking.  We get another shot at strawberries (though barely, this year) and the greens that are on their way out at home.  But full-on summer vegetables–cucumbers, tomatoes, corn and beans–are still a dream in early July.

Which is not to say that there aren’t local produce treasures to enjoy.  I always make a point of putting up some rhubarb chutney from Steve’s uncle’s ancient plant.  We all practically consume our weight in fresh English peas, which hate the heat of the south but thrive in these cooler climes.  And while we are baffled by the difficulty of laying our hands on organic apples around here, we are already enjoying heaps of gorgeous local raspberries (red and black!) and cherries.  Later in the month, we should be able to get some beautiful, blushy New York apricots.

In the  meantime, I brought a few green tomatoes along with us, and they are starting to pink up in the kitchen windowsill.  Not quite the same as plucking a warm tomato off the vine, but it should tide us over until we’re back in the land of sweltering days and exploding gardens.