Tomatoes in Grasp | Mark Lindsay

Hot-house tomatoes come to market early in spring. This is too early for a tomato. Tomatoes herald the beginning of summer—real summer, not some fabrication designed to hurry along a year before its time. Hot-house tomatoes remind me of Christmas decorations that show up before Thanksgiving. Sadly, too many patrons of the farmer's market succumb to the temptation. "Look!" they say. "Tomatoes!!!!!" And they go buy the mealy, half-green half-real approximations of the real thing.

But then, one day, one does see the real thing. Real, vine-ripened, grown-in-dirt-outside-where-they-were-meant-to-be-grown tomatoes show up at the market. There is a reverence to picking out the perfect tomato. It is different than stuffing one's bag with string beans or broccoli. The tomato is so seductive, so anticipatory, and its color is the most beautiful of reds.

Tomatoes can be photographed and painted forever and they remain the most perfect of still-life subjects (with apologies to Edward Weston and his peppers). Just writing about them compels me to buy some, put them on a table and shine a light onto them. But, it is only late June and I am still wary. Why rush it? There is nothing worse than buying what looks like the perfect tomato and then having it taste like cotton. I'd rather stick with brussels sprouts a few weeks longer.