Feast logo

Homegrown Summer

Misfit Tomatoes Rule

By Dana StewartPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 5 min read
Homegrown Summer
Photo by Josephine Baran on Unsplash

June, July and August – these summer months bring the heat and the fun. The sunshine gifts longer days, temperatures rise as the sun hangs high in the sky. Opportunities to go fishing and while away the late afternoon hours. Set a cane pole and watch fireflies dance at twilight. Enjoy an ice-cold beer to quench your thirst after you mow the lawn. Enjoy another cold beer as you watch your favorite Boys of Summer baseball game. Go Braves! It’s the season for floating in swimming pools, river boat riding, and kayaking in the creek. Any water activity offers an ideal destination to beat the heat. The days when the hickory aroma of roasting meat off the neighbor’s grill makes your mouth water.

Summer. The season of life.

Summer is all about relaxation, but it’s the also the season of harvest. Seeds planted in spring sprout into fruit and vegetable-bearing plants. With tender care, the plants flourish in farmer’s fields. Home gardeners also seek those plentiful bounties of yield, aiming to stock their freezers with every kind of vegetable imaginable. It’s a head start on provisions for the cold winter months ahead.

Having a home garden also lets you enjoy your harvest on the daily. Fresh, organic, ready to eat fruits and vegetables. In your own backyard. There’s nothing better.

Growing up, my parents didn’t always ‘tend a garden’ – that’s the term I’ve always heard used to ask someone if they planned to grow their vegetables. A home garden is a commitment - of time, of energy, and attention. My parents were of the ‘Victory Garden’ generation. This concept started in World War II where the government encouraged citizens to grow more of their own crops. The initiative was for people to learn to be even more self-reliant. Any surplus could be donated to the troops. This boosted morale, but also helped families have a full pantry. My parents learned as children how to make a garden grow. How to make a garden thrive. The ins and outs of when it’s best to plant lettuce, when not to plant pole beans. It was not all trial and error. Their parents taught them. Gardening was a necessity. There was No Trader Joe’s on the corner in 1890. They learned out of desperation, an era of the Great Depression. Much different than having a hobby garden nowadays. They learned for survival purposes.

Vintage Victory Garden poster image from Wikipedia

My parents taught me the about the joys of gardening at a young age. We didn’t have a vegetable garden every year, but the years we did are memorable ones.

Popcorn tastes the same whether you eat it in November or July. Popsicles do as well. A good argument can be made that a summer grilled hotdog is superior to that hotdog cooked on the stove in February. Grilled to perfection hotdogs, loaded with relish, mustard and raw onion are hard to beat. In my neck of the woods, hotdogs are mandatory for the Independence Day menu. With all the fixings. As good as the grilled hot dog is, it's not my top shelf pick for favorite summer food.

Author's grilled 4th of July Hot dog from 2021

Homegrown is always the freshest. All vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, carrots, to name a few– these taste the same whether you buy them at the grocery store or grow them at home.

But the tomato, well – the tomato is special. I admit, I am a tomato snob. A homegrown tomato is the epitome of what summer tastes like. My decision on what food symbolizes summer the most was quick and absolute. There was no close second choice. Not even by a long shot. And I like to eat. I like to eat well. (Refer to the hot dog photo as proof)

If you’ve never tasted a homegrown tomato, you’re missing out. Homegrown tomatoes are not like the hot house grown tomatoes you find at the grocery store. For starters, the appearance is different. Homegrown tomatoes have character. The skins are luminescent, the red color varies. Often the best tasting tomatoes are the ugliest looking ones. Give me a tomato where the skin has split from where it perched on the vine. Mom used to say that kind of tomato grew so fast the skin couldn’t keep up.

You won’t find ugly tomatoes, misfit tomatoes as I call them, at the grocery store. And that’s a shame.

Author's Misfit tomatoes

There’s nothing better than growing a misfit tomato yourself. Tomato plants are easy to maintain. They need full sun to grow. Once the plants begin to bloom, watering every other day is sufficient. Unless you live in a hot humid climate like I do, then watering is necessary every day.

Harvest takes time, up to sixty days before you have fruit. If you decide to grow a tomato plant, you’ll first notice a yellow flower bloom. That’s the start of an actual tomato. Technically a tomato is a fruit since it flowers first and has seeds. But the way we eat them and treat them when cooking classifies them as a vegetable.

Tomatoes offer a litany of options for meals. My favorite summer food is the classic tomato sandwich. This sandwich is the trifecta of what defines a meal on hot summer days. Simple ingredients, easy to make and satisfying. Making one requires no heat from the stove, so the house stays cool. Which is another benefit when you live in a region known for its brutal summers. It’s not the heat, dear. It’s the humidity…

All you need for the ultimate tomato sandwich:

1) Fresh sandwich bread

2) One ripe and sliced homegrown tomato

3) Mayonnaise.

Assemble and enjoy.

You know you’ve got enough mayonnaise if the juice runs down your elbows while you eat. Go ahead. Live a little.

Author's tomato sandwich consumed while writing this story - 2022

If you’re lucky to have a bounty of tomatoes, there’s even more options. You can use them to make tomato sauce or tomato juice. Store and use in a pot of chili on the dreary winter days that lurk ahead.

Growing Roma tomatoes? Slice them thin on a tray and cover with cheesecloth to keep the bugs out. Set in the sun and you’ll have your very own sun-dried tomatoes in a couple of days.

There is the notorious snack of tomatoes and crackers. So simple but tasty. The perfect mix of salt and crunch. It’s a southern thing. Cube ripe tomatoes and break some saltine crackers in pieces. Mix both together in a bowl and enjoy. Note, this snack gets soggy fast, so make it when you are ready to eat.

If you just can’t wait for ripe red tomatoes, there is always the Southern classic dish of Fried Green tomatoes to quench your craving. Here is my recipe. It's simple yet life affirming.

Tomatoes are versatile in their many uses. Want to add ketchup to your grilled hotdog? Ketchup is made from tomatoes.

If I grow more than I can put to use I share the excess with friends and family. Their delicious just as they are, or you can use them to make other dishes. That is why they’re my favorite summer food. Sliced tomato slices make a good side dish as well.

Especially with Macaroni and Cheese. Yum.


About the Creator

Dana Stewart

Enjoyed the story?
Support the Creator.

Subscribe for free to receive all their stories in your feed. You could also pledge your support or give them a one-off tip, letting them know you appreciate their work.

Subscribe For Free

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  2. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  3. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

  3. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

  4. Expert insights and opinions

    Arguments were carefully researched and presented

Add your insights

Comments (3)

  • Lori Lamothe2 years ago

    Great piece. My mom also had a huge garden when we were growing up. Had no idea it was a Victory Garden just like the ones you describe. Also agree that I have never tomatoes as good as the ones from that garden. I would just bite into one like an apple.

  • Tomato sandwiches are also on my list of essential summer foods.

  • Totally agree with you. Homegrown tomatoes taste so much better than the store bought ones. And I finally found someone who enjoys mayonnaise as much as I do.

Dana StewartWritten by Dana Stewart

Find us on social media

Miscellaneous links

  • Explore
  • Contact
  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms of Use
  • Support

© 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.