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You Say Tomato

It's called the Love Apple for a reason! Who doesn't love a vine-ripened, juicy red tomato? Whether they come from your garden, farm stand or farmer's market, summer is the "ripe" time for tomatoes!

It's hard to beat a field-grown or home-grown tomato. Commercial fresh market tomatoes are grown on poles in greenhouses or controlled conditions, or in large fields as bush varieties, harvested with little red or mature green color to help ensure a longer shelf life. Most of the year, that's the type of tomato we buy because the summertime field-grown tomatoes aren't available. So, relish these summer and fall months to enjoy the tasty "home-grown" flavors.

There are more than 10,000 cultivated tomato varieties. We plant several varieties of tomatoes for the Fruit Stand: Ace (our favorite), Celebrity, Big Beef, Early Girl, Better Boy, Q-47 (a local variety), Bonnie Original, Sweetheart Grape, and the hearty Roma and San Marzano Romas. This year, we planted the Orange HL Variety, a low-acid heirloom orange variety. The Roma varieties have been extremely popular this season. Customers are making pasta sauce and canning tomatoes to ensure they will have that wonderful summer flavor in the dead of winter! Canning, freezing or drying --- now's the time to process the bounty of tomatoes, which are readily available and cheaper, too!

So, is it a fruit or vegetable? Botanically speaking, a tomato is a fruit. Technically, a vegetable is the root (carrots, radishes), stem/bud-or-flower (celery, asparagus, broccoli) or leaves (lettuce, spinach) of a plant that we eat, while a fruit is the fleshy part surrounding the seeds. Tomatoes, like cucumbers and squash, really should be classified as fruit, but everyone considers them vegetables.

Call if a fruit or call it a vegetable, but the versatile tomato is one fresh food item to love, especially this time of year. Sliced in a Caprese Salad, bacon’s date on a BLT or cooked down to make a hearty pasta sauce, enjoy your tomatoes. No wonder the French called the tomato the “apple of love” when it was introduced to Europe in the 1500s. All these years later, the love continues!

Liz, her husband Earl, their grown children and their families make up Hudson Farms, a fifth-and sixth-generation family farm in Sanger, CA.

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