Cheerful yellow tomato flowers, shaped like a wizard’s hat, need to be shaken to release their pollen. They resonate with the buzzing of bumblebees’ bodies as they clamp themselves to the flower & flex their wing muscles at a middle-C buzz, a noticeably higher pitch than the humdrum beat of flight, & just right to dislodge the pollen. Most commercial greenhouses employ captive bumblebees to perform this service.
-- Jonathan Drori
It is tomato season here in North Carolina ~ Minori planted several cherry tomatoes in our little vegetable patch this year & this morning we plucked some of their beautiful jam-colored fruits that are sun-salted & perfectly plump.
Tomato is in the Solanaceae (the Nightshade family). Though there are many, many cultivars which produce a wide variety of tomato shapes, colors, flavours, & sizes, all tomatoes fall under the genus & species of Solanum lycopersicum. Lycopersicum is from the Greek lykopersikon, meaning 'wolf peach'.
Tomatoes are surely one of the most common fruits (a berry!) to appear across cultures in our kitchens. These round, sweet, umami-flavoured fruits are featured in recipes from all over the globe. Abundant once planted in a garden, tomatoes not only make a lovely addition to the vegetable patch, but are truly divine when plucked off a fragrant branch & eaten in the yard. Once you have eaten a garden-grown tomato, it will be hard to purchase them from the grocery stores again.
Tomatoes are nutrient rich, full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, bioflavanoids, & other essential elements--yet another example of how lovingly grown plant food truly is our medicine. Tomatoes are 95% water, which makes them a hugely important plant during these hot, sunny days of the year. Biting into a tomato can help to quench thirst & cool the entire system. They also contain a high amount of Vitamin C (wonderful immune & wound-healing support) & lycopene.
Lycopene is rich with antioxidants & is what lends the reddish hue to many of our fruits like watermelons & grapefruits. The berries of Autumn Olive are another wonderful source of lycopene & this tree is often considered highly invasive with a mass abundance of berries to harvest. Lycopene has been proven to have cancer preventative effects, to lower blood pressure, prevent hardening of the arteries by preventing LDL oxidation, healing sunburn (drink some fresh tomato juice), & assisting in the speedy repair of skin cells. Tomatoes have also shown to be supportive of the liver's detoxification process, to provide cardiovascular protection, & to decrease the risk of developing osteoporosis.
Tomatoes fill us with a sense of delight, friendliness, abundance, & companionship--anytime I bite into a delicious tomato, I want to share it with a friend. Perhaps this where one of the olden names for tomato derives, "love apples." Once considered a potent aphrodisiac, I do find that tomato inspires us with a desire to connect, to share, to laugh, to enjoy & celebrate life.
So, this brings me to a recipe for your kitchen cupboard & your herbal pantry: pickled tomatoes. I personally love pickled anything & this recipe definitely enhances the natural umami flavour of the tomato. I also love this recipe because it is simple & you can enjoy these divine fruits even in the midst of winter.
-- clean, quart-sized glass jar with lid
-- 4 cups of fresh, washed, & dried tomatoes*
-- 4 cups of filtered water
-- 4-8 cloves garlic, sliced (add more if you desire)
-- 1 bunch of fresh parsley &/or dill
-- 2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
-- 3-4 tablespoons of sea salt
-- 2-3 leaves each of oak &/or pear (optional)
-- sungold tomato fruit essence or another tomato flower essence (optional)
*any tomato will do, including cherry or green--if of the larger variety, then cut into quarters
**all the herbs suggested are optional ~ feel free to substitute them with your favorite herbs if you wish
-- Ensure your jar is sterilized by boiling it in a big pot of water for 15 minutes--remove carefully with cooking tongs
-- Add the peppercorns into the bottom of your quart-sized jar, then layer in the tomatoes, parsley, dill, garlic, oak leaves, &/or any other herbs of your choosing
-- In a separate, clean jar or bowl, mix together the water & salt to make a brine (I like to heat my water up to help incorporate the salt even more & shake this solution in a jar to really mix it all up)
-- Pour this brine over the tomatoes, making sure to cover them completely
-- If your tomatoes are not completely covered, add more brine
-- Add 3 drops of your tomato essence into the jar
-- Securely close with the lid & turn the jar upside down for 2-3 days
-- Your pickled tomatoes will be ready within 2 weeks, though they can certainly sit for longer
-- Store them at a room temperature before opening, once you open the jar, they can be refrigerated for up to 2 months