Even here, in the cool wet summer of 2016 on the coast, it is Tomato season. Fresh Tomato the words evoke a sort of reverence for those of us who grew up in the hotter Midwest. I have very visceral memories of those tomatoes of childhood gardens; midwestern soil warm beneath my bare feet, the smell of the plants so strong that you nearly swoon. Holding a tomato in both hands, smooth and warm. At my grandparents house, big slices on the plate at lunch time, sprinkled with salt and for the adults pepper. Sometimes the thunderstorm rains and blazing sun combined to cause the taunt skins to come bursting open. We loved the cracked ones, those we then got to huck at the road - my brother Bob yelling some sort of grenade appropriate holler while doing so. Splat! We hated having to search for big tomato worms, their bloated fat greenness also smelled of tomatoes, and made much smaller splats on the road.
Moving to the Northwest I met a different kind of tomato. The plants coddled and covered. Warmth created with visqueen covered hoop houses. Not so much the problem of volunteer plants coming up in unexpected places in the garden. In the Northwest tomatoes are a frail princess, rather than a robust pirate Queen.
And yet each year our intrepid farmers put forth all the effort needed to bring us boxes filled with their jewel like beauty. Michael McKee of Willow Grove Garden once told me a story of how the plants in his greenhouse were destroyed by late frost, then flood and then burned by an unexpected hot day while they were away at a farmers market. The plants sprang back from the roots and that year he ended up with double the plants, because he had replanted expecting the worst. They had more tomatoes than they could give away. This I see as evidence that the spirit of Queen Tomato has recognized the dedication that the McKees have offered to the altar of Tomato over the years.
2016 is a bit different - no plagues have smited his greenhouse this year. Farmer McKee and the other Scorcher favorite farmers are bringing us their tomato bounty right now. This is the time of year to partake of the splendor that is the fresh ripe tomato. (Or of roasted cherry tomatoes smeared on bread. ) The time is now to eat tomatoes until you don't even want to look at one, well until next year.