Plucking each tomato’s genetic lineage right off the vine, yesterday, hoping to end it in a lasagna, I filled my basket. (Sure, I could harvest the pesky little seeds and start over next year, but I hate tomatoes. I planted them for a friend coming to visit from Switzerland this summer and now I have hoards of them.)
When I was little, just the smell of a fresh tomato triggered my gag reflex. I could pick chunks out of salad, but if a slimy seed stowed away under a lettuce leaf and managed to breach my mouth, I had the sensation and flavor of a corpulent garbage truck trailing that stinky trashy piss-water down a dusty alley that joined with mouldering leaf run-off to trickle a confluence of inexplicable expletives into my mouth.
In other words, probably allergic, but only to the raw acid. How could nature be so mean, masking something so foul-tasting in such a festive color.
Tomatoes and deadly nightshade are cousins, and that says it all: Lurking among their shared genes from the family Solanaceae is the gene for foul and deadly taste.
Cooked is just peachy. I love pasta, pizza, bouillabaisse all the way down to the humble tomato soup, anything red! red! red! No chunks, tho, please.
How was I ever to process these little beasts? My first attempt, I threw them in boiling water, then mooshed them hotly through a sieve, grinding their shiny backs with a marble pestle, tossing the seedy detritus. Soup tasted like battery acid.
For the second attempt, I decided to drain all the acidic juice. In fact, I could save and make fresh tomato juice, if I wanted to pull a Hamlet on the last scene. (“No, no, the drink, the drink,–O my dear Hamlet,–The drink, the drink! I am poison’d.” -Queen Gertrude, taking the first quaff)
This time, I turned off the boiling water, let the monsters bob for a couple minutes, then plunged them into an ice bath (to preserve my flesh this time), and then coolly skinned them alive, noting the lurid magenta flesh beneath the otherwise tomato-red skin. Initially, I had lopped the tomatoes in half and scooped the seed from all the tiny labial cavities, reserving the flesh for the food processor blade. What a waste of time!
Inspecting where I never dared peered before, though, I could plainly see that the seeds nested in oblong mucous pods just inside the periphery of my particular tomato variety, especially if I peeled down the outside layer. All I had to do was grip the skinned red ovary in two hands and squish! The subcutaneous seedy mucous came squirting violently out the bottom and top, nearly putting out my eye (“out vile jelly, where is thy luster now” –Lear) but leaving only a few loiterers to scrape from within.
I rototilled the meaty flesh, simmered the puree, then thew in sauteed shallots, garlic, ground turkey and beef, jalapeno, shredded eggplant, carrot, zucchini, and basil; layered it up with spinach, real, expensive mozarella, aged cheddar, jack, and freshly grated parmesan, sea salt, peppercorns, and a bit of thyme and oregano hopefully not harboring minibugs from my organic garden. And the teeniest smidge of cinnamon, a trick I learned from my daughters’ Top Chef summer camp, ostensibly disgusting, but does indeed add just a bit of complexity.
My husband and I were on a lycopene high. Had to have a couple glasses of a big red to bring us back down.
I could dig the seeds out of the compost, plant them, and squeeze more ovaries next year. But tomatoes, I am sure, are vicious viners, whether I retrieve them from the compost bucket or no. As soon as we mulch our fruit trees with our cooked compost, we will probably go out and find some volunteer Jill in the Tomato stock climbing our peaches, strangling them to get back at me.