Vinnie and Tuddy’s summer camp had only one clear cut rule, “Don’t touch Pop-op’s tomatoes.” Being small and prone to a bit of trouble, I neglected the “Don’t” in this singular law and became determined to get my grubby little hands on each piece of blazing red fruit.
On a slow mid day break from pizza making and breadcrumb crumbling, I carefully tiptoed over the border stones that outlined my Grandfather’s garden and snuck inside. Amidst the greenery, wooden stakes and cages I was almost completely camouflaged. I turned in circles on my heels, dizzy with joy. Peering over my shoulder, to ensure Drew was keeping a proper look out, I began to methodically touch each dangling tomato solely because I was not supposed to. I turned around once more and caught my brother with his head face upward, following a passing cloud in the clear blue summer’s sky and I knew I had lingered too long. I felt my heart drop to the pit of my belly when from nowhere my Grandfather appeared like a ghost. He lifted me up with one hand from the patch of tomato earth and placed me beside my clueless little brother. Not a whole lot was said but his disapproving look hung around until dinner.
The next morning as Drew and I sleepily shuffled into the backyard of my Grandparents house, I saw my Pop-op hunched over a small plot of dirt about a hundred yards from his own larger patch. He had re-planted a Roma tomato bush. He presented us with an old Chivas Regal container full of miniature garden tools and motioned toward our newly pruned section of the yard. I think our tomato plant lasted about two weeks, not bad for a gardener of 5 and 3 years of age.
*The recipe below is a classic-it’s simple and perfect alongside every summer meal. Tomatoes only taste like themselves for two or three months out of the year- so after September you are better off with a can or jar. The real thing is worth the wait.
4 garden fresh beefstake tomatoes (if using plum make it 6, if using cherry or grape make it 12-14)
1/2 cup freshly torn basil
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
Slice the tomatoes into quarter wedges. In a salad bowl combine the tomatoes salt, basil and black pepper, stir to combine. in a small bowl or cup combine the honey and olive oil, whisk gently and toss with tomatoes. Serve and enjoy!