Around this time of year, as my neighbors begin gathering an abundance of cucumbers, taters, beans and greens from their backyard plots, I gaze around my fading flower beds and quietly say to myself, "Gosh, I'm sure glad I didn't waste all this good garden space on vegetables."
The one exception to my "no edibles in the garden" is tomatoes, which always get a 12x10-foot patch of good growing ground among my blooms. Why? Because they're fun and easy to grow, simple to preserve and, most of all, because tomatoes are the delicious heart of so many of my favorite dishes. (And to think that for centuries people thought they were poisonous!)
I like to mix up my tomato varieties, so these days I'm harvesting "love apples" of every size. My grape and cherry tomato plants are ripening up nicely, and I've put them to good use in recipes like Fresh Tomato Mozzarella Salad.
At a garden party recently, I served hollowed-out cherry tomatoes stuffed with Garden Veggie Cheese Ball Mix. (Yeah, digging the innards out of thumb-sized tomatoes is a futzy process, but my guests' rave reviews made it so worth it.)
I've been cutting carbs lately, and Simple Taco Salad with my own fresh-from-the-garden diced tomatoes made me almost forget the crispy fried tortilla bowl I wish it had been served in.
Where tomatoes really shine, though, are in hotdishes (what you non-Minnesotans call "casseroles"). Each fall, Mom and I enjoy bonding over a steaming canner to put up quart jars of stewed tomatoes and tomato sauce to be used in tasty dinners all winter long. Some of our favorites include Mama Mia Pizza Casserole, Meatball Casserole and Chicken Enchilada Casserole. (Happily, I expect to have fallen off my low-carb diet long before hotdish season begins.)
So although it's sad to see the flowers fading and the leaves beginning to turn, autumn does have its bright red, shining star. I just love that tasty fruit, from my head right down to mah toes.