Last year I found my inner farmer. While I’ve always enjoyed planting a few flowers along with some fresh herbs and a tomato plant or two, the details of caring for them didn’t interest me — and the results reflected it. But the few tomatoes that did make it to my dinner table last summer inspired me. This year I vowed to make an effort to increase my harvest.
My family helped me cart containers and soil onto my deck in preparation for this year’s crop. After all their support, they were emotionally invested in these tomatoes. And me? I was obsessed. Which made it all the more shocking to go outside one July morning and see nearly all of them bearing the nibble marks of what had been, up until now, cute and harmless chipmunks.
Oh, this was war.
My boys and I spent an entire weekend wrapping the plants in inexpensive tulle (a recommendation from a friend), turning my whole garden into a Kardashian wedding, in order to discourage the pesky pests from making a meal of our tomatoes. It was a lot of work, but it paid off, as we did manage to save most of what was left on the plants.
The tomatoes that survived merited special attention in the kitchen. We salvaged enough to get our fill of BLTs and caprese salad, and still had enough to roast some, which is one of our favorite ways to enjoy homegrown tomatoes. We quarter or slice tomatoes or use whole cherry tomatoes, then toss them in olive oil, garlic and balsamic vinegar, and roast until their juices begin to caramelize. The deep tomato flavor that results can stand alone as a side dish, make a memorable pasta sauce or the perfect foil for a rich grilled steak.
Even better, any leftovers will freeze beautifully to be on hand when the weather is cold and the chipmunks are in hibernation, no doubt resting comfortably, in part, because of those earlier tomatoes.
Meredith Deeds of Edina is the author of “Everyday to Entertaining” and “The Big Book of Appetizers.” Reach her at meredith@ meredithdeeds.com. Follow her on Twitter @meredithdeeds.