Notes from the Farmer’s Market Chef

by Barbara Cornell

Right now my tomato plants are at different stages.  The ones we planted last are like the kid sister who just can’t grow fast enough to keep up with the big kids.  The early ones are already sporting cute little green marbles that will one day provide a deluge of wonderful, red, juicy tomatoes.  I’m bracing myself because I remember years past when I just wanted them to slow down!  It takes a good deal of time and imagination to deal with the flood of summer tomatoes. This year we have planted mostly heirloom tomatoes, so we will have a delightfully wide variety to enjoy.

Probably the best book I have found on the subject is The Heirloom Tomato from Garden to Table: Recipes, Portraits, and History of the World’s Most Beautiful Fruit by Amy Goldman, 2008.  The photographer, Victor Schrager, has a well-earned mention on the title page.  Well, I don’t know about beautiful–heirloom tomatoes run the gamut from museum-collection perfect to defiantly and proudly ugly.  The photographs are of 200 varieties Goldman has grown in her garden over the last 5 years, each reverently profiled and lovingly photographed.  If I need ideas to use up my own heirlooms, I’ll be certain to consult the 55 recipes that complete the book.

What Goldman and Schrager do for tomatoes in 2008, they already did for squashes in 2004.  The Compleat Squash: A Passionate Grower’s Guide to Pumpkins, Squashes, and Gourds is another masterpiece.  A feast for the eyes, it will make you want to head for the Farmers’ Market.

Another book I remember using last year is still worth mentioning–The Heirloom Tomato Cookbook by Mimi Leubbermann, 2006.  This book covers the Kendall-Jackson Wine Center’s Heirloom Tomato Festival in Santa Rosa, California.  Along with advice on pairing wines with your tomatoes, you will find recipes for “roasted cherry tomato and cinnamon-basil ice cream” and “tomato sfomatino [sic]” (sort of an Italian tomato aspic!).  Pair your tomatoes with melons and honey and make “black plum tomato marmalade.”  The sky is the limit!

Here are a few more books you may enjoy.  You don’t have to be a vegetarian to enjoy the occasional meatless meal.  Peas and Thank You by Sarah Matheny, 2011, will give you a repertoire of “Simple meatless meals the whole family will love.”  You don’t even have to cook a thing to enjoy this book.  Matheny embellishes each recipe with stories and photos that will make you love her two little girls.  Her recipes are as photogenic as her girls, and I’ve marked a few must-trys for myself.

Another is Love Soup by Anna Thomas with “160 all-new vegetarian recipes from the author of ‘The vegetarian epicure’.”  True to the title, the book is full of recipes for soups—fall and winter soups, spring and summer soups, and cold soups.  But this book is well rounded out with recipes for breads, spreads and snacks, salads, and “a few easy sweets.”  Thomas also offers a suggested menu and menu notes at the head of each chapter—great ideas for pairing her soups with her breads and salads.  For the vegan, she annotates with a V in the table of contents any recipe that is vegan-friendly.

I hope you’ll come to the Glenwood Branch to join me from 10 to 11:30, Saturday July 14 when the Farmers’ Market Chef will discuss “Tomatoes and squash, exotic and heirloom — how to handle the excess.” There will be recipes and samples from the Farmers’ Market!

Barbara Cornell joined the Howard County Library System in 1993 as Assistant Branch Manager at the new Elkridge Branch.

Since 2000 she has enjoyed a shorter commute to the Glenwood Branch.



  1. My family has had years when we had so many tomatoes. Some years we grew and sold them as well.

    It amazes me how much you can do with tomatoes. I have not tried ice cream though.

    “roasted cherry tomato and cinnamon-basil ice cream”

  2. My family grows tomatoes in a greenhouse without artificial additives without spraying detergent, unfortunately pests are relentless and third sets is always broken. Tomatoes grown in home conditions very different taste than those purchased. Our tomatoes are juicy, delicious and fresh.

  3. Thanks for all of the great book suggests. I am also a tomato lover so any advice I can gather I am grateful for. I worked at a nursery for several years and I spent many hours plant tomatoes and indulging in there deliciousness. Delicious vegetables are one of my favorite parts about the warmer weather. Happy Gardening!

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