You Say Tomato, We Say Ono!

Joan Porter -- cukes also are in season

Bill and Joan Porter’s dream is to develop sustainable agriculture on Kaua’i, and Kauai Fresh Farms, a hydroponic farm in Kilauea, is part of that dream. Using organic methods whenever possible, Kauai Fresh Farms grows tomatoes, cucumber, basil and lettuce in state-of-theart greenhouses, as well as fruit and vegetables on two acres.

What’s growing: Apple bananas, eight varieties of lettuce, basil, four varieties of tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, green bell peppers, Italian eggplant, Japanese cucumber, papaya.

BEEFSTEAK TOMATO

Tomatoes are a fruit, a berry to be exact, rather than a vegetable. They are members of the nightshade family, which includes peppers and eggplant. There are more than 300 varieties, ranging from tiny currant types to the beefsteak, which can weigh more than two pounds.

Here on Kaua’i, all but cherry tomatoes are difficult to grow. Fruit flies sting tomatoes and ruin them before they can mature. In most places across America, tomato season has come and gone, but at Kaua’i Fresh Farms beefsteak tomato season is just beginning.

Season: Beefsteak tomatoes take 90 days from seed to table, and are available November through March from Kaua’i Fresh Farms.

Rows of 15-foot vines hang in the greenhouse. Daniel Lane photos

What to look for: A ripe beefsteak tomato will be richly colored and will give to gentle pressure. Choose one that is firm, with no blemishes, and that has unbroken skin.

Storage: Normally, it’s a definite no-no to store tomatoes in the refrigerator because they become mushy and lose flavor. But here on Kaua’i, they need to be stored in the refrigerator or they will spoil quickly. I have found that a tomato’s flavor will explode and the texture is fine, if you allow it to come to room temperature first.

Tip: Because of the high acid content of tomatoes, they should never be cooked in aluminum ware, iron or copper pots. Copper is the worst because the reaction can be toxic. Glass or stainless steel is best.

Preparation:A beefsteak tomato has compact seed cavities, and a minimal core. Because of this internal structure, it holds together well when cut, and is well-suited for slicing and eating raw.

Beefsteak tomatoes are perfect on sandwiches and hamburgers, in salads, diced in salsa, stuffed, broiled or grilled. A classic way to enjoy them is to place tomato slices between two pieces of bread that have been slathered with mayo, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Health benefits: Cooked tomatoes contain high amounts of lycopene, a powerful plant pigment considered to be a better antioxidant than beta carotene. Studies have shown that lycopene is effective in reducing many types of cancers.

Now that’s a tomato. Daniel Lane photos

Tomatoes also contain two other cancer-fighting phytochemicals. Nightshade alkaloids cause some people to have an allergic reaction that affects nerve-muscle and digestive function, and may compromise joint function.

Kauai Fresh Farms’ produce can be found at: Island School, farmers markets at Kapa’a (Wednesdays at 3 p.m.), Hanalei (Saturdays at 9:30), Banana Joe’s, Foodland, Harvest Market, Healthy Hut, Kilauea Town Market, Kojima, Papaya’s Natural Foods, Sueoka, Living Foods, Times/Big Save.

“We do just about every restaurant on the island, large and small,” says general manager Markeeta Smith.

Call 826-0077, or visit KauaiFreshFarms.com.

CROSTINI WITH TOMATOES AND BASIL

This is a simple and delicious pupu that’s great for cocktail parties. Tomatoes and basil have a natural affinity with one another, and adding garlic and olive oil make a perfect quartette.

The rough surface of toast acts like a small shredder, and when raw garlic is gently rubbed over, this technique adds a subtle garlic flavor without overpowering the tomatoes. Makes about 25 crostini.

Tomato, basil, olive oil and garlic just go together

* 4 Beefsteak tomatoes, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
* 1/4 cup basil, cut into ribbons
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* 1 clove garlic, peeled
* Extra virgin olive oil

* Coarse sea salt
* Freshly ground pepper
* 1 baguette, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place baguette slices on a cookie sheet and bake about 10 minutes, until slightly golden, crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Let cool. Rub raw garlic over toast. Place one tomato round on each piece of toast, add a drizzle of olive oil, and if you’re lucky some Hanapepe salt. Add a pinch of pepper and the basil.

Enjoy!

KauaianFresh.com

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