The simple diversity of tomatoes…

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This was the first year I actually planted my own garden, it was a lovely experience! I spent a long time thinking about what my favorite plants are and drew out countless maps of the back yard. Collecting seeds each time I saw some that fit my plans, and even some that didn’t. I bought bags and bags of bulbs, and the day I actually decided to plant them was wonderful!  With help, the garden that was already in place had been dug up and reworked in no time!  Among the black tulips, multicolored hyacinths, gladiolus, hollyhock, lilies and sunflowers I hid some sage, chocolate mint, and an almost bush like french lavender. The excitement I felt running out each morning to see what new shoots had broke through was beyond anything I had expected.  I felt like I had truly accomplished something beautiful and something that could potentially return for many years of enjoyment.  I purchased a number of varieties of tomato, hot pepper, and even a vertical basil plant – all of which did tremendous – except the tomatoes.  This was very unfortunate for me, because I have a strong love for fresh beautiful tomatoes. I don’t know what I did wrong, they had plenty of sun… plenty of water… I don’t know, some rookie mistake I’m sure.

None of it really ended up mattering, seeing as I no longer reside anywhere near my beautiful garden.  I did manage to bring with me the vertical basil, along with a big bushy nasturtium and a large pot full of rosemary and thyme. Oh but the tomatoes….. A friend of mine, who happened to have walked me through my gardening adventure, has just recently left for Europe – the day before he left he offered me some of his tomatoes. Now let me make it clear…  he is married to a real green thumb. They have the most beautiful garden, it wraps right around their house and man! It is amazing. I spent the morning there one day in the early spring digging up what had become over grown and transplanting it into my own yard. They were looking to unload as many tomatoes as possible before departing on their month long trip. This was music to my ears! I left with about 8lbs of ripe and totally unripe tomatoes.

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He was a slightly hesitant as he loaded me up, asking a few times if I would truly use so many. Would I? As I looked down into the very heavy bag before me I almost wondered that myself…  and then in an instant that thought was banished. Of course I would! I have since been using fresh, organic, local tomatoes in absolutely everything. All sorrows of my own poor tomato plants have been cast aside!  The one thing I hadn’t thought of, about having so many tomatoes… was where I would put them. Not in the fridge, besides the fact that there is no room in my shelfless fridge, I wouldn’t want them in there anyway. So, they have been taking up my entire kitchen counter for the last week.  Finally, with most of them nearing ripeness and some of them starting to wrinkle, I decided it was time to get to work.

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I decided, beyond a giant batch of roasted garlic tomato soup, the next logical option would be salsa!  I split the ripest of the reds, tossing in a number of the wrinkly cherries; and the wonderfully cheerful yellows for two batches of perfectly simple salsa. Simple being that I wanted to have a strong tomato flavor, while still having a regular punch of a spicy salsa. A lot of people like to add cumin, or paprika, corn or beans… I just wanted something that would showcase the freshness of my ingredients without over complicating.

Mellow Yellow

About 2 cups of yellow cherry tomatoes (whole)
1.5 Hungarian hot peppers (any spicy variety would work!)
4 cloves of garlic
1 small yellow onion
1/3 cup of chopped fresh cilantro
juice from 2 limes
pinch of salt

 Literally toss the tomatoes into a pot with a couple table spoons of water and got it simmering. As that gets going, dice the hot pepper, onion and garlic. Add some salt to the pot, and then toss in the garlic mixture.  Make sure to stir, you don’t want your baby tomatoes burning to the bottom! Once all of the tomatoes have popped open add in the lime, juicing half at a time and tasting after each one. Last but not lease, stir in the cilantro! Some people like more tang, some less, so make sure you taste as you go!   I finished mine off in a hot water bath to properly can and seal, but it would be perfect to enjoy immediately as well!

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I wanted the red batch to be a bit bolder, so I decided to use some chipotle powder to amp up the heat. I figured since I was changing the color, and adding some spicy smoky flavor, I may as well make it chunky too!

Chunky Chipotle 

About 2.5 cups of diced firm red tomatoes
1 cup of red cherry tomatoes
5 cloves of garlic
half of a Hungarian Hot Pepper
1 small yellow onion
Chipotle powder – to taste
1/3 cup of chopped fresh cilantro
Juice from 2 limes

Similar to the Mellow Yellow salsa, add a few table spoons of water to a pot and toss in the chopped tomatoes. Once they begin to break down, add the cherry tomatoes and the hot pepper. Allow that to simmer and the cherry tomatoes to start to soften. Add the garlic and onion, and stir well. As some of the cherries begin to pop, stir in the chipotle about a teaspoon at a time depending on how much you like. Personally I like the smoky heat a lot so I added quite a bit. Squeeze in the lime, again tasting as you go, to bring everything together. Add salt if you wish, this will help to bring out the boldness of the chipotle. Finally stir in the cilantro and voila!

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