It’s that time of year when some gardeners and tomato-coveting shoppers face a vexing question: What on earth am I going to do with all these tomatoes I grew (or bought)?
A select few up to their elbows in tomatoes may have an additional quandary: How am I going to prepare different kinds of tomatoes to honor their unique qualities?
Chef Jamie Simpson of the Culinary Vegetable Institute faced a particularly challenging version of this last week: 100 pounds of 60 different kinds of tomatoes to transform into a seven-course, tomatocentric dinner. Fortunately, it’s Simpson’s job to come up with creative solutions to such problems of abundance. And as Simpson deftly reminded us, the possibility of the tomato is pretty much infinite.
Simpson was tasked with planning and executing the dinner at the CVI in Milan, Ohio, drawing from a gorgeous selection of tomatoes provided by the Chef’s Garden, a farm down the road in Huron, Ohio, which grows specialty vegetables for chefs.
Farmer Lee Jones, who runs Chef’s Garden with his brother and father, tells The Salt they planted 106 varieties of tomatoes this year. Some are in trials and won’t go to market. But a whopping 60 varieties of all different shapes, sizes, flavors and ages (from centuries-old heirlooms to brand new hybrids) are being harvested right now.
Most of the tomatoes grown at Chef’s Garden are shipped daily to chefs around the U.S. and other countries, but a few of them make their way over to the CVI. The Jones family helped establish the institute 13 years ago as a playground for chefs to test out new vegetables grown on the farm and as an event space for seasonal dinners and workshops for the public.
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