Food for Thought: Eugene's Terrific Tomatoes

Aug 16, 2017

Nancy Leson is the first to talk up the virtues of the produce on sale at local farmers markets, but she was wowed by the tomatoes she saw at Eugene's Lane County Farmers Market.  Her only regret?  "I just wasn't in a position to take home a box of San Marzanos that were just unbe-LEEEV-able."

I had thought San Marzanos were the same thing as the Romas I'm growing.  I was half-right.

"They're shaped like Romas," Nance told me,  "But slimmer and pointier.  Both are used for making tomato sauce and paste, but the San Marzanos have thicker flesh, fewer seeds, and their flavor is less acidic than Romas."

At Eugene's Lane County Farmers Market. Romas in foreground and center.
Credit Nancy leson / KNKX

I've got high hopes for my own crop of Romas.  They're still pretty green but there's a lot of them.  When they ripen I'll cook them down a little and puree them. 

I freeze multiple bags to make sauce of during the winter and I always add a tomato leaf to every bag.  It really seems to boost the flavor.

While in Eugene, Nancy stopped by the venerable Smith Family Book Store, shopping as always for cookbooks.  She went home with American Food: The Gastronomic Story by Evan Jones.  Jones, husband of famed editor Judith Jones, was a renowned food writer in his own right.

In this week's show Nancy shares this 19th century recipe from Jones' book for Mrs. Randolph's Scalloped Tomatoes.

Mrs. Randolph's Scalloped Tomatoes recipe from Evan Jones' American Food: The Gastronomic Story.
Credit Nancy leson / KNKX

"When I eat a tomato I look at it the way anyone else would.  But when I paint a tomato, then I see it differently." – Henri Matisse