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Tomatoes Remind Us, Change IS Possible

2019, Jul 30 | A Practice for Summer


This week´s chapter, tomatoes. Once upon a time, people feared tomatoes, thinking them to be poisonous.  Germans believed that tomatoes attracted werewolves and whilst Early British settlers did not have the same superstition, they remained wary of consuming tomatoes and grew them as ornament. Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention. During the American Civil War, fact overcame fiction and easy to preserve tomatoes were canned to feed people whose agricultural lands had been destroyed by war.  Post war, when companies tried to market new dishes like tomato soup, public tomato eating stunts were staged to help the populace overcome a misplaced fear that tomatoes were poisonous. Hearts, minds and taste buds were won over so much so that Andy Warhol´s Campbell´s Soup print became an iconic symbol of America. If you ever get discouraged and think change is not possible, lend a thought to how people´s relationship with the tomato has changed over time. When it comes to tomatoes, it also strikes me how much courage it would have taken people brought up believing one thing (tomatoes are evil) to embrace a different truth (tomatoes are your delicious friend). Would you have been one of the first to take a bite? 





Have you ever engaged in the, “is a tomato a fruit or vegetable debate”?  By botanical definition a tomato is a seed-bearing ripened ovary, making it a fruit – plain and simple.  Yet, as it is less sweet than many popular fruits, people often think of tomatoes as vegetables.  So, what? You say tomato, I say tomato, people see things differently.

In 19th century America, the debate was taken quite seriously as a tax was placed on vegetables, but not fruit. When one tomato distributor’s ‘vegetables’ were taxed, he objected and took the argument all the way to the Supreme Court. With science on his side, surely the judiciary system could not deny justice to a man in the fruit business. Alas, no. The Justice’s logic was that as most people used tomatoes for main courses and not dessert, despite scientific fact indicating otherwise, that tomatoes were vegetables and were to be taxed accordingly.  Ummm, okay. Well if you say so, your honour, then it must be true. You can just see Mother Nature´s “thank you for man-splaining” face!

It turns out that tomatoes have the power to unite us and to divide us.  To bring us pleasure and to fill us with fear.  What are the intended messages of nature? And why do we humans think we know better than Mother Nature? What would happen if we just listened to the lessons she was trying to teach instead of making everything about an economic product? I spare a thought for what it is about our human nature that could attach such a variety of meanings to the tomato every August. Then I just bliss out, bite into a juicy one and think of nothing at all.


Ritual: Savoury Tomato Jam

For me, tomatoes are one of the most sensual foods that exist.  The fragrance of the leaves, the distinct juicy flavours of the vast variety of tomatoes that range from sweet cherry tomatoes to almost sour green tomatoes — and the memories. The memories of making tomato jam with mum in her summer kitchen.  That is fabulous, because the smells and varieties of the tomatoes will help trigger thoughts about the powerful messages in this nature related practice. In particular, perhaps eating tomatoes will help you summon the courage to change and to uncover the truths of nature.  Going through the process of making some chutney is all about creating nature related muscle memory! 

Bottling that flavour in August meant we had a pantry full of intense tomato flavour and summer memories to which no tin of tomatoes or store bought pasta sauce could remotely compare. Tomato jam also opens up a whole new savoury world for preserves.  It’s not quite a chutney and it’s not quite a jelly – it’s in between. Mum used to serve it over soft cheese at dinner parties.  I like to use it on hard boiled eggs or as a sandwich spread.  And, yes, sometimes on a cheese board a la a chutney. Get creative, get jamming and start building a new seasonal tradition. 

Savoury Tomato Jam Recipe
Makes 4-6 half pint jars
As with all of our recipes, we encourage you to use organic ingredients
  • 1500 g fresh tomatoes, we recommend Roma or other dense tomatoes
  • Boiling water
  • 12 cL apple juice
  • 25 cL cider vinegar
  • 25 cL runny honey
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp ground mustard
  • ½ tsp all spice
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  1. Mark the bottom of each tomato with a small x. In batches, submerge the marked tomatoes into the boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in a colander to let drain. Repeat with all of the tomatoes.
  2. Peal tomatoes and set aside skins. Roughly chop the remaining flesh, and put the chopped tomatoes, as well as any extra tomato juice, into a bowl. Set aside.
  3. Combine all of the other ingredients in a pot over medium heat, stirring until the honey dissolves. Add the reserved tomatoes and juice and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and let the tomatoes cook long and slow, until the mixture has reduced by half. The long, slow heat helps to develop the sugars in the tomatoes, and you do not want to rush this step. You can play around with the honey and salt amounts to make the jam sweeter or more savoury, but do not eliminate either ingredient!
  4. Once the above step is done, transfer the jam into sanitized half pint jars and tightly seal them. Process in a hot water bath for 30 minutes and after processing, let them cool for at least 24 hours before you store them. Enjoy tomato jam on sandwiches, on cheese boards, or anywhere that needs a sweet, tangy tomato kick!