We are now at the height of the St. Louis search for the perfect tomato.
Most tomatoes seem to end up as the rubbery wedge abandoned beside a salad. St. Louisans call these “store-bought tomatoes.” There is no worse insult to hurl at a tomato.
St. Louisans swear summertime is the season of the ripe, juicy tomato. “The ones you get nowadays, you could use as car bumpers,” a tomato-loving relative told me. “Got the same taste, too. When I was a kid, I used to eat a good tomato like an apple, with just a little salt.”
Others prefer tomatoes with a little basil and mozzarella. As the crowning glory on a BLT. Or in a summer salad with vinegar and cucumbers.
St. Louisans keep a lookout for produce stands that sell juicy tomatoes.
They debate which tomato varieties taste best. I come from a Beefsteak tomato family.
They also try to grow their own, but that often leads to heartbreak. I’ve seen tomatoes struggling in dried-out pots on porches and growing in tiny backyard gardens covered with netting and chicken wire.
They are being protected from the ultimate tomato enemy: the squirrel. Squirrels destroy a garden by taking one bite of every tomato on the vine.
A tomato lover told me he dreamed of the perfect revenge: “One day I will catch the squirrel that is ruining my tomatoes. I’ll cook him and then I’ll only take one bite.”
Harsh? Not if you saw his tomatoes.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Elaine Viets is a freelance writer.