Whether it’s tomato or tomahto, either way I say “yum”. Roma, Celebrity, Big Boy, Better Boy, Brandy Boy, and their sister Early Girl, I love them all. Grilled, stewed, marinated, sliced, diced, and whole, I am a big fan of the homegrown tomato. Even before the last of the brutal snow melted from the crevasses of our mountain, my thoughts had long since turned to spring—and ‘maters.
Last summer a fellow gardener brought me a bag of tomatoes. She said she was plucking her vines on a daily basis had more than she knew what to do with. My own crop of container grown plants had made a dismal showing, barely eking out enough fruit to make a weekly BLT. When I asked her secret, she replied, “EarthBox.” I didn’t know what an earth box was, but if it was the key to loads of tomatoes, I was in.
It didn’t take much looking online to find multitudes of gardeners singing the EarthBox’s (www.earthbox.com) praise. Words like “foolproof”, “effortless”, and “unbelievable” were used over and over in a cult-like fashion. The system is self-contained, self-fertilizing, and self-watering—almost on autopilot—could it mean no more dreaded blossom end rot? With unbridled glee I placed my order for not one, but two of the gardening marvels. Be still my heart.
Following the assembly instructions faithfully, I put together my two boxes last weekend and tucked my seedlings underneath the black cover included in the kit (to keep the soil warm and reduce stress caused by fluctuations in nighttime temperatures)—ingenious! I filled the special water reservoir and bingo, I was done. By my calculations, the Early Girl should be cranking out the fruit mid-June, kicking off what I hope to be a non-stop tomato extravaganza lasting until first frost. Nothing to do now but sit back and wait for harvest time.
Also dear to my heart are spinach and the artichoke. In a salute to my three veggie favs, I would like to share a recipe: fabulous Spinach & Artichoke Stuffed Tomatoes (which also happens to include my dairy beloveds as ingredients…sour cream, mayo, and Swiss cheese). Now I ask you, with a line-up like that, how can you go wrong?
Spinach & Artichoke Stuffed Tomatoes
1/3 pound (150 g) fresh spinach
1 cup (236 ml) sour cream
2/3 cup (158 ml) mayonnaise
1 cup (236) canned artichokes, drained and chopped
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 pound (226 g) Swiss cheese, grated
8 large firm tomatoes
1/4 cup (59 ml) bread crumbs
1. Steam spinach until tender, about 3 minutes. Remove and press to drain water. Chop into small pieces.
2. Mix together spinach, sour cream, mayonnaise, artichokes, garlic salt, and Swiss cheese until thoroughly blended. Cover and refrigerate over night.
3. Slice off the top of each tomato. Gently scoop out pulp and seeds, leaving a solid wall of tomato flesh around the perimeter of the fruit.
4. Sprinkle lightly with salt and invert on racks for 30 minutes until drained.
5. Preheat oven to 425°F/218°C and remove spinach artichoke filling from refrigerator to bring to room temperature.
6. Lightly oil a baking sheet large enough to accommodate all the tomatoes without crowding.
7. When tomatoes are drained, arrange on baking sheet. Use a spoon to fill the tomatoes to the top with spinach artichoke filling. Sprinkle with bread crumbs.
8. Bake in oven for about 20 minutes, until filling is bubbly and bread crumbs are lightly browned. Remove and serve warm.
Recipe excerpted from In Praise of Tomatoes (Lark 2004)