Slice a ripe tomato, sprinkle it with salt, and stack between slices of soft bread generously spread with mayo. Eat it standing over the sink for one of life’s best simple pleasures. While Jim’s eaten more than a few tomato sandwiches, he’s always trying to get a few more tomatoes into the mix. Here’s how he does it.
We didn’t have a big garden when I was growing up, but we always grew tomatoes. I learned early that nothing tastes like ripe, homegrown tomato. Here in the Pacific Northwest, tomato season has historically been short, a few glorious weeks from late August into early September. While climate change means I’m eating tomatoes from my sunny, south-facing driveway garden by late July, it’s still a narrow window for tomatoes worth eating.
So I’m trying to eat as many tomatoes as I can, and you can only put one, maybe two, in a sandwich. My original deconstructed tomato sandwich, a plate of several sliced tomatoes drizzled with olive oil, dusted with flaky Portuguese salt, a big dollop of mayonnaise on the side, and a few slices of grilled or toasted bread, usually a crusty, rustic loaf. Eat with a knife and fork, combing a little of everything in each bite. The flavor and textural elements of the tomato sandwich, but with more tomatoes and no juices running down my arm.
Lately I’ve tweaked my approach. A wide, wooden bowl holds more tomatoes. I’ve changed the bread, too. I still love rustic, usually whole grain loaves, and given the area’s numerous and amazing bakers, there are many to choose from. But the classic tomato sandwich uses soft white industrial bread. I still can’t bring myself to buy a squishy loaf of Wonder bread, but the buttery, soft Sally Lunn from Portland’s Little T Bakery, its tall, square loaves baked in Pullman pans, is better anyway. If I’ve got a lot of tomatoes, I use two slices of bread, skillet-grilled in olive oil.
I choose the best, ripest tomatoes from my garden, the farmers market, or, in a pinch, dry farmed at some grocery stores. They get cut into bite-sized pieces, put in the bowl with olive oil, salt, and a dollop of Duke’s on top. Grab your grilled bread, a fork, and eat.
Join us Saturday for the world’s first dry farmed tomato festival. While Oregon has a rainy reputation, climate change brought severe drought to the state 20 years ago. We’ll all need to learn to live with less water, but it’s an existential issue for farmers. Dry farming makes agriculture possible when water is scarce; for tomatoes, it makes them taste better, too.
Dry farming restricts a plant’s water intake, so its fruits wind up with less water content and a greater density of sugar and other flavor compounds. The best dry farmed tomatoes are less juicy but have dense, meaty flesh and intense flavor. But not every tomato benefits from dry farming. That’s why we need your help.
Growers working with Oregon State University researchers exploring dry-farming are trialing several tomato varieties to find out which grow well here in the PNW. They’ll have tomato tasting kits with easy instructions for tasting and reporting what you like and why. You’ll be helping local farmers choose the best tasting tomatoes for dry farming, conserve one of our most valuable resources, and become more sustainable.
Our friends from the Culinary Breeding Network will join us with hand-carved Italian marzipan molds, Tatti Stampa prints, and Moontea Artwork tea towels. We’ll be slinging cold drinks and tasty tomato treats. Join us in the parking lot from noon to 4 Saturday, September 11.
We’re thrilled to be offering the best peaches in Oregon in full and half cases. Our friends at Baird Family Orchards have been growing superlative fruit for over 40 years, and their stone fruits are a summer highlight. Nothing good lasts forever though, and we’re entering the tail end of peach season. You’ve got 2 weeks left to get those orders in!
The legendary Astiana Tomato—seeds dug out of an Italian compost bin and painstakingly bred by Anthony and Carol Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm over many years of tasting and seed selection—are beloved by Portland chefs for their extraordinary depth of flavor. Developed explicitly for cooking, they’ve got the perfect balance of acid and sugar for making soups, sauces, and anything that needs the flavor of a good tomato, including the best homemade tomato paste ever. Our friend Kathleen Bauer of Good Stuff NW roasts and freezes them, but canning and drying are other options for putting up your supply.
These are only available for a short time every summer, so act fast and get your orders in today.