Glorious Gold Nuggets (and Black Cherries and Isis Candies)! Over two pounds of sweet, sweet cherry tomatoes have made it onto our plates so far this summer. That’s good, not great. But we’ll take what we can get.
The latest crop met its match with the contents of last week’s amazing CSA share from Greensgrow. Delicious spinach pasta from Superior Pasta, POD cucumbers, POD oregano, and Boltonfeta from Hidden Hills Dairy all combined to make a pretty awesome spoof on the traditional Greek salad.
POD’s Greek Salad Pasta:
1 lb fresh spinach pasta, linguine
8 oz. cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
1 tbs. chopped oregano
2 lemon cucumbers, sliced thinly
1 small shallot, very thinly sliced
1/4-1/2 lb feta, crumbled
12-15 calamata olives, pitted and chopped
pepper, to taste
red wine vinegar, (optional) to taste
In a large bowl, mix the cherry tomatoes and the chopped oregano.
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add some salt. Dump in the fresh spinach pasta. Boil for 4-5 minutes.
While the pasta bubbles, toss the shallots, olives, and feta with the tomatoes. Stir in some pepper and a splash of vinegar.
Drain the pasta and pour the piping hot pasta over the cheese and tomato mixture. Stir thoroughly.
Ladle into plates, top with cucumber slices, and season to taste.
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1-2 clove garlic, minced
8 oz. orzo
2 cups chicken stock
¼ c. water
¼ c. parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
2 teaspoons capers, drained and minced
1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted and chopped
1 pinch red pepper
1/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon lemon zest
Salt and pepper
1. Pour the olive oil into a large skillet set over medium heat. Dump in the tomatoes and the garlic and cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes become a little soft, about 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside.
2. Pour the chicken stock, water, and orzo into a large pot. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, cover, and cook for 7 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the pot sit, covered, for an additional 3 minutes.
3. Stir the parsley, thyme, capers, pine nuts, cheese, and lemon zest into the orzo. Then fold in the cooked tomatoes and garlic. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
If you ignore the yellowing, early blighted leaves (which were snipped moments after this photo was snapped), you’ll see a still-producing Isis Candy cherry tomato towering above its neighboring Gold Nugget.
It towers because it’s an indeterminate — that is, it keeps going and growing and going. Until diseases finally fell is, that is. The Gold Nugget, one the other hand, has about had its day. It has reached its determined height, produced a couple pounds of tomatoes, and is about to expire.
The determinate vs. indeterminate is an important consideration for gardeners, especially those with limited space. Like, for instance, this particular roof deck gardener.
This year, POD selected two indeterminate varieties (the late Chocolate Cherry and the ailing Isis Candy) and two determinate varieties (Gold Nugget and Tumbling Tom). Because POD’s seduced by the idea of an ever-growing, ever-producing tomato, the larger and ungangly and space-hogging indeterminate is quite fetching. However, because disease is a constant lurking threat, the short(er)-lived and compact determinate has its merits.
The smooth, juicy, sugary flavors of heirlooms are, by far, POD’s preferred tomatoes. One of life’s greatest pleasures is a plate of glistening multi-colored tomato slices with just the lightest dash of quality balsamic vinegar, a teeny pinch of salt, and a sprinkling of fresh basil.
Cherries? No way! Small, sour, acidic, red and boring. Or so we thought. We were wrong. And nearly went broke buying buckets of them at the farmers’ market last summer. Seriously, it was like an addiction.
Given the various tomato frustrations last year’s crop of full-size heirlooms brought, cherry tomatoes seemed like a fine way to go. Prolific, earlier yields seem appealing. Furthermore, the little blue deck gets a decent amount of summer sunlight (5-10 hours), but given the houses that surround it, the hours of sunlight vary widely from May to August and containers are constantly shifting locations to keep up with maximum sun. Cherry tomatoes, evidently, are a little more flexible than their full-size brethren.