A Tomato Education

Posted on July 15, 2011


More on the subject of “baal” tomatoes… For some weeks now, I’ve been trying to coordinate with Balkees a time that we could go together to visit our friends where they are growing their waterless summer produce. I’ve been enjoying these amazing vegetables, through her, but there is nothing like visiting the field and picking them yourself.  Balkees has been swamped with orders for her cookies (this is, after all, the height of the wedding season), but yesterday, we took advantage of a lull in the production line and headed out to the fields.

In the cool twilight, we joined the family members who were trolling the rows, pails in hand, gathering what had ripened since the previous day’s harvest. We joined in the work – and I felt almost ashamed of the joy I derive from what for them is tedious toil. There is no romance of heirloom growing, or local food magic here. Just hard work and precious little compensation.

We picked okra until my hands and arms itched from their little hairs, and then moved to the tomatoes. We picked until the sun went down on one side of the sky and a full moon rose on the opposite end. I took home a small bag of okra and two bags of tomatoes – green and red. The red, Balkees instructed, are for making tomato sauce and the green are for eating.

Today I cleaned and cut up the red tomatoes and put them in the food processor. Then I strained the tomato crush through a sieve, pushing out every bit of moisture as I’ve seen Balkees do. I washed and trimmed the okra, and the oversized ones that I once might have rejected as being too tough, I cut into pieces since Balkees said that those are her father-in-law’s favorites.

I sliced some garlic, sautéed it for a minute in olive oil, then added the okra – and after a few minutes of stirring, poured in the tomato juice, for a good long simmer.  The father-in-law was right…

Tomorrow we will have the green tomatoes for breakfast.