What To Look for in the Farmers' Markets This Weekend: Tomatoes
In the Greenmarket's earlier days -- say in the '90s -- the advent of tomatoes in quantity were one of the institution's most glorious summer moments, the bright red color bursting from every stall, tasting of of the season, the soil, and the good green earth. That moment rarely occurred before late July, but now it has been pushed up earlier and earlier. And this weekend already we have tomatoes in abundance.
Few of these are field tomatoes. They are grown now in greenhouses in either soil or hydroponically, but both types can be very good if allowed to ripen on the vine, which is clearly the case with the current crop being sold.
A few of the tomatoes may have been field grown -- ask the farmers. The ones I've seen that have been originate around Bridgeton, NJ and other towns in the southernmost part of the state.
But tomatoes that are bright red can be tasteless, too. The way to tell is to discreetly bring a fruit up to your nose and sniff the depression where the branch was attached. If it smells like tomatoes, you can buy it. If not, go on to the next stall.
Prices have been steady at $3.50 to $4.95, but if it's the late afternoon, don't hesitate to bargain down the price. If you're going to cook with these beauties, pick ones that are too soft to use in salads -- and once again ask for a price reduction.