Amazing, Historical Ways To Use Tomatoes! Part 4
Despite the increasing availability of processed tomato products, the popularity of tomatoes as a garden vegetable continued to increase. However, many felt the new hybrid varieties which were bred for increased disease resistance and keeping quality, lacked the flavor and variability of the older varieties. Gardeners began saving seeds from favorite varieties and, as these were passed down through generations, they became what we know today as heirlooms. Heirloom varieties come in many different sizes, shapes and colors, whereas hybrids are more uniform.
Despite all this scepticism, however, and the length of time it took for the tomato to catch hold, it is now a favorite of many. In fact, according to the National Gardening Association, the tomato takes top honors in the list of America's most popular garden vegetables. In a national poll, they found that 85% of gardeners grow tomatoes, while just 58% grow peppers, the second most popular. In addition, they are second only to iceberg lettuce as the most frequently consumed vegetable in America.
However, even as late as the beginning of the 20th century there were still those who were wary of the tomato. In 1918, the eminent agricultural scientist George Washington Carver published a document entitled How to Grow the Tomato and 115 Ways to Prepare it for the Table. Carver, along with a colleague, Adella Hunt Logan, wanted to help poor Alabama farm families and felt the vitamin rich tomato would be a valuable food crop for them. They had, however, only limited success in convincing farmers to grow them at the time.
The Carver book is definitely worth examining today, not only to gain a perspective on the way tomatoes were utilized a century ago, but also for some rather unique recipes. Of course, the 115 ways include standards such as:
Macaroni and tomatoes
Tomatoes Spanish Style
and many other common tomato based dishes, but it seems Carver also delved into some recipes that I am not aware have any common parallels in 21st century cooking. Some of the most notable are:
Tomatoes As Olives - The instructions state that you should a bushel of green and / or half-ripe tomatoes, indicating that the plum or fig tomatoes are the preferred versions; wash clean; pack in very large jar or tub; use 5 pounds of fine salt, half a pound of whole mixed spices; weight down and cover with plenty of cold fresh water; wait two weeks until they are ready to use, and according to Carver will keep for months if kept in the pickling solution.
Tomato Mock Orange Marmalade - Carver's book informs you to first scald and then peel large sized, yellow tomatoes; and once that is completed you should cut downward over each individual seed section of the tomato; press open and remove all the seeds with your thumb while leaving the pulp of the tomato more or less whole; then to two parts of the ready prepared tomatoes add one part of oranges, sliced very thinly complete with the peel, but naturally without seeds; cover the entire mixture with an equal quantity of sugar, (yes, it's hard to believe but that much... diabetics beware) and let the whole thing stand over night; the next morning pour off the thick syrup, which you then proceed plunk on the stove, and cook down to about half of the volume of when the mixture was cold; then add back in the tomatoes and oranges, and you continue to cook it all until the orange skins become translucent; then seal in jelly glasses.