A proper salute to tomatoes, greens


McZENA MUSE - Louise Swartzwalder



I just had my first taste of a warm weather favorite.

And it was located right outside my office door.

A sometimes grower, you see, is always on the lookout for those wonderful, sometimes bitey things that are given to you, right out of the ground.

I ventured from my office to get pictures of some beautiful tulips neighbors in downtown Bellville had planted.

These, on a property formerly lived in by acquaintances, are spectacular in their rosy color.

Walking back, I stopped to pick up some kind of bumpy, brown pod. These, I thought, would look wonderful in some kind of dried arrangement.

Then, I looked about. And there was some fantastic looking mizuna. And, sprigs of chives.

The feeling a wannabe full time grower gets when he or she sees something this attractive is akin to the high you could get from doing something else wonderful — like getting on a carousel at your local Loudonville Free Street Fair — even though you are well past the age group for whom carousels were built.

I’ve always loved carousels, and have been guilty of prodding friends to go on rides with me, over the last several years.

So to see this glistening mizuna made me only want to be outside, lots more.

If you aren’t familiar with mizuna, let me tell you about it.

It is in the mustard family. Lots of people don’t like mustard because it is not shy in the way it tastes.

But I like it.

It can wake up a salad.

If you’re tired of the same bland lettuce and want to go on an adventure, get some mustard. Or arugula.

Both have distinctive tastes, and can certainly enliven a person who things he or she needs to take a nap.

As a farmers’ market grower, I have tended both of these greens. They are some of my summer favorites.

At home I built one raised bed, then field planted all other items.

I start heirloom tomatoes from seed. Heirlooms are the best you can get, in my opinion. Many tomatoes we are subjected to in the summer are transported in from far, far away.

I have several heirloom favorites. One is sungold. The other is green zebra.

The sungold is a cherry tomato, which can satisfy anyone’s yearnings for something that tastes like candy.

Good tomatoes are like a sweet. They should be something you can savor, as you would a good dark chocolate. But you can move on and know you’ve done something really good for yourself.

The green zebra tomato probably misleads people, because it is indeed green when ripe. At its summit of ripeness, it takes on a slightly brown cast.

This tomato is not large. Eating one is, again, like eating candy.

I grew up on the farm with mom and dad. Back then I would get tired of all the garden grown things, like sweet corn.

A child has the right to think: Again, sweet corn.

Summertime, with all its bounty, is in my mind, the best of times. I can push myself by hoeing, weeding; tending my tiny plants before they are hardened off and can be put in the ground.

Then, the reward.

Dining, for sweet, comforting moments, on your own little babies: here we go, sungold and green zebra.

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McZENA MUSE

Louise Swartzwalder