Let's talk tomatoes. How to grow them, how to cook with them, and honestly, why you should be eating them straight off the vine as much as possible. Plus, what to do with imperfect produce to reduce food waste. And lastly, how DoorDash is doing its part in the fight against food waste and hunger!
Produce of the Week: Tomatoes
Tomato season is one of my favorite times of the year. My mom's garden in Vermont is absolutely bursting with this year's crop. We're growing everything from tiny candy-like orange sungolds to weighty deep red brandywines. One from this year's crop even topped off the scale at nearly 2 pounds!
How to Grow Tomatoes in Pots
Tomatoes are wonderful because they're easier to grow than many other vegetables. The first step is to choose the right variety of tomatoes for your purposes. If you're growing in pots, you'll want a determinate tomato variety. These species only reach a certain height, and don't need as much soil and resources as indeterminate tomatoes, which are better suited to growing in a garden. Bonnie plants makes a useful tool to help you find the best tomato breed for you.
Next, you'll want a large pot to allow the tomato roots to grow deep enough to support the vines. Look for a planter a minimum of 18 inches in diameter. Don't forget to check the bottom! Your pot needs a drainage hole to allow water to escape. Otherwise, you could end up with rotted roots! You'll also want to add a little plate or saucer under your tomato plants to catch the water that leaks. The reservoir of water in the dish is also there if your plant needs an extra drink on a hot day. You then just need a simple support cage to prop up the plants a bit.
Next, find the right place to position your tomato plants. They like at least 6 hours of sunlight a day. Finally, once it's growing up the cage, be sure to water your 'mates regularly. You can tell if your plant needs a sprinkle by testing the surface with your finger. If the dirt is dry, it's probably thirsty. You can also fertilize your plants, if you like. Then all that's left to do is harvest and get cooking!
How to Cook with Tomatoes
And that brings us to the next, and I'd say most important, topic: tomato recipes. During peak summer, if you're growing (or buying) a wide range of tomatoes, you probably have some that are amazing raw and others that work better in cooked dishes. We grow a rainbow of green, yellow, orange and red varieties. They make the prettiest salads and pack such varied flavors that you need little more than olive oil and salt to make a stunning dish.
What flavors pair well with tomatoes
Tomatoes are so delicous on their own that they're easy and fun to mix with other simple vegetables and herbs to create your own recipes. Here are some of our favorite classic and new flavor pairings for tomatoes:
Starting with the simple, and more common flavor pairings:
- Basil (no shock here) and other fresh herbs like oregano, chives, thyme, tarragon and mint
- Cheeses like savory parmesan, fresh mozzarella, feta, goat cheese and burrata
- Mayonnaise - we love a simple tomato sandwich with a healthy swipe of Sir Kensington's Fabanaise on toasted bread
- Cucumber - hello, Greek salad!
- Olives (see above)
- Jalapeños and other peppers, including bells!
And for some more unique tomato flavor pairings to try:
- Miso - try adding a spoonful to tomato sauce or soup for extra umami
- Tofu - roasted and caramelized, like this upscale recipe from Great British Chefs, is delicous with seasonal tomatoes
- Fruit of all kinds - stone fruit, berries, watermelon, mango, and more
- Wine. Yes, of course wine in a glass pairs well with tomatoes, but try adding wine to a cooked tomato recipe to bring out the wonderful acidic flavors in the vegetables.
Best Recipes with Tomatoes
- Creamy Vegan Roasted Tomato Soup. A classic creamy soup gets a vegan upgrade with all the goodness of slow-roasted tomatoes and eggplants.
- Vegan & Gluten-Free Tomato Quiche. This quiche is totally customizable, but it's a beautiful presentation and great use for my favorite, cherry tomatoes.
- Caprese Panini with Pesto Avocado. Melted vegan cheese, meet pesto, avocado and juicy tomatoes. Need we say more?
- Grilled Peach Caprese Salad. Grilled peaches are a revelation. Paired with thick slices of tomatoes and yep, more vegan cheese (our favorite vegan mozz is from Miyoko's), this salad is savory and sweet.
- Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Pasta with Caramelized Onions. The layers of flavors from some of summer's most delicous produce make this pasta a true winner.
- Simple Burst Tomato Pasta. And for the nights when you don't have time to caramelize onions, this easy weeknight dinner comes together in minutes.
- Roasted Yellow Tomato and Bell Pepper Soup. This bright yellow soup topped with fresh corn is a totally unique twist on tomato soup.
Food Waste Tip
Don't discriminate against ugly vegetables! This time of year is the time to pile your (reusable) grocery bags full of fresh vegetables. But many of us can be too particular when it comes to selecting our picks from the market or even our own gardens.
Sure, you might grow an unusually large zucchini or two, or have a tomato split on the vine from a sudden rainstorm. And sure, not every ear of corn at the farmstand is 100% pristine. We've all seen those cobs afflicted with gaps and funny kernel patterns.
And guess what? They still taste just as sweet as their prettier siblings.
Instead of tossing aside a bruised peach or nicked onion, embrace the ugly produce. Get out your knife and remove anything really gross. Use the remainder in a flavorful cooked dish or for baking.
Here are some ways to use the imperfect produce you're pretty much guaranteed to come across if you're eating anywhere near as many fresh fruits and veggies these days as we are.
- Zucchini Bread is the perfect receptacle for any huge-a** squash that come out of your garden. The big guys aren't the most flavorful on their own, and can have a lot of seeds. So grating them up and folding them into batter is a heart-warming way to avoid waste.
- Slow-cooked marinara sauce turns any not-so-fancy tomatoes into a luscious pasta sauce or dip for polenta fries
- Ratatouille is a forgiving and delicous way to turn any imperfect squash, eggplant and onions into a hearty dinner.
- A simple jam or jelly turns overripe berries and other fruit into sweet preserves that last the whole year.
Current Events in the Food Industry
DoorDash is using its international platform and technology to help fight food waste. Ever wonder where the buffet leftovers go when a catered event ends? Or what happens to all those uneaten bagels after an office breakfast? Project DASH by DoorDash is helping ensure those leftovers find hungry hands, rather than a landfill.
Over 50 million American households affected by food insecurity. And yet hundreds of billions of pounds of food are wasted in this country every year. This hard-to-reconcile paradox means there's a huge opportunity for technology and consumer actions to bridge the gap between food excess and scarcity.
Thanks to their extensive network of drivers and food purchasers, DoorDash is in a unique position to help find homes for leftover food. So far in 25 cities, including New York, D.C., Toronto and Atlanta, the project partners with existing food waste companies to help with the logistics.
Many cities have companies already active in fighting food waste. These partners do the work of finding the churches, shelters and other locations for food waste to go. DoorDash then provides transportation and drivers to get all the leftovers from the office break room to a welcoming place.
According to the DoorDash blog, 78% of restaurants say that transportation is a barrier to donating more food. Yet in densely populated cities, the food often just needs to travel short distances. It's great that DoorDash is taking up the important task of closing the food waste gap.
We can only hope that they continue partnering with food waste companies in more of the 4,000 cities they currently serve throughout North America. And, of course, some more publicity might help ensure that event hosts know who to call when they're left holding the bag (of leftovers).
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