An heirloom like no other

As a gardener, I look forward to the harvest all summer.

All the watering, weeding, trimming, and encouragement is in hopes of a beautiful bounty this time of year.

For a Prairie kid like me who grew up watching my parents hope desperately for enough warm, sunny days to ripen tomatoes, those are the gems in the garden’s treasure.

Here in the Okanagan, we are blessed with a wonderfully long, hot summer season. I still end up with green tomatoes on the vine in October, but we have enjoyed plenty of ripe fruit by then. 

I love to grow oddball veggies and tomatoes are no exception. This year, I have luscious Yellow Oxhearts and dainty green-striped teardrops named after Michael Pollan.

There are Purple Cherokees and Pink Caspians, smaller but dramatic Indigo Rose, and the straight-up red and prolific Centennial Rocket.

It’s just as exciting as Christmas morning to go into the garden and see what’s there for me to pick.

Tomatoes are an incredibly sensory experience, and I don’t just mean taste. It’s like the plants are making me pay attention to how much they have to offer.

As soon as I reach in to pick a ripe tomato, I can smell the earthy, green aroma from the plant. I can’t describe it any other way – just intensely “green."

Amon wine geeks, tomato leaf is said to be a typical aroma of Sauvignon Blanc or the aptly named vinho verde (green wine) of Portugal. Next time you have a glass, see if you notice it. 

The feel of a ripe tomato is a sensual experience. Although they are considered a soft-flesh fruit, they are best when picked firm. I enjoy the meaty varieties that have more flesh than seeds. 

Some of our beefsteak varieties are big enough that one slice makes a perfect component for a BLT.

My special tip for taking this simple sandwich over the top is to use arugula instead of lettuce and add a swipe of pesto with the mayo.

When I come back in after my gathering and wash my hands, the smell comes back; the sink displays a yellow-green tint as the water washes the aroma down the drain. 

I found that amazing as a kid, that the plants would give off so much colour just from a touch. If you look carefully in the early morning sun, you can see the magic – there is a glistening yellow mist over the leaves.

Tomatoes are the best example of another term I learned in my wine studies: terroir, a French term meaning “a sense of place.” It is talked about when people want to convey the unique flavours indicative in a product from their region. 

This magic created by the environment, the plant’s growing habit and the gardener’s practices are fully showcased by tomatoes.

Growing tomatoes makes me think of working in our family garden in Calgary when I was little, but the taste of my Okanagan harvest is not the same.

The terroir here is nothing like what went into those hard-won specimens, just like two different, equally wonderful bottles of wine.

I could give you some recipe links for tomato dishes, but if you have your own bounty or if you’ve found local gems at a fruit stand or farmer’s market then all you need is perhaps a bit of salt, a wee chiffonade of basil, if it strikes your fancy, or maybe a drizzle of olive oil and/or balsamic vinegar. 

Just like the season itself, and all the memories we love to cherish of seasons past, a freshly picked heirloom tomato deserves to be simply enjoyed. It will help you understand the old saying:

“There ain’t nothing better in life than true love, and a home-grown tomato.”

More Happy Gourmand articles

About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories