Tomatoes. Can you get good ones in southwest Fla?

Gladiolus tomato farm stand.  PG photo

Gladiolus tomato farm stand. Red color prevails. 1938 tractor (McCormick-Deering)  Paul Goldfinger photos

If  you are from New Jersey, you know something about tomatoes. We are the Garden State and are famous for our beefsteak Jersey tomatoes.  But we also know that those tomatoes are a very delicate crop indeed.  They are only available near the end of August, and, at their best, are the best in the world.   But if the conditions are not perfect, such as heavy rains right before they are harvested, then the crop can be ruined or just mediocre.

tasty and ready

tasty and ready

Down here in Florida, the soil conditions are not ideal, because the sandy soil doesn’t hold moisture, and the necesssary nutrients are lacking.  But there are growers who specialize in tomatoes.  We found one about 15 minutes away from Tropicana.  This specialized grower has sunny fields filled with tomato vines and he has each plant sitting in its own micro- environment with the ideal nutrients held in black plastic.  The tomatoes are planted in late August and ripen on the vine in winter.  Harvesting goes on till June.

Tomato field with soil and nutrients in black plastic.

Tomato field with soil and nutrients in black plastic.

The result is a tomato that is beautiful to look at and very tasty.  Now you know why they sometimes refer to women as “tomatoes.”  This farm has  a farm-stand painted in red and white.  They also have some wonderful corn: small with delicate kernels, and there are still some Honeybell oranges available.

If you want to give them a try, go north on Gladiolus. Just before you get to Summerlin Rd. , on the right, is a sign that invites you to “pick your own tomatoes.”   That’s the place, but they have a large selection of tomatoes just waiting for you–no picking required. Just pull in and park your car.   You can also have a nice conversation with the women who “man” the booth.

Caprese Salad by Eileen Goldfinger. PG photo. January 2013.

Caprese Salad by Eileen Goldfinger. PG photo. January 2013.

RECIPE:  Eileen recommends a Caprese Salad.   You cut some thick slices of tomato and matching slices of fresh mozzarella cheese. Then layer the slices in an alternating pattern with a leaf of basil on each slice of cheese. We have found excellent fresh mozzarella at Mario’s Italian Deli at 12326  S. Cleveland Ave (Rt 41, south of Colonial Drive) or at the Friday Lakes Park Famers’ Market, off Gladiolus.

Then prepare a vinaigrette by mixing 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, juice of 1/2 lemon, pinch of salt, some freshly ground pepper to taste, and 1/2 tsp of Dijon mustard.  Whisk the mixture until the ingredients are blended and then drizzle on top of the salad.