I found this 1940s produce crate label for Dominator Tomatoes, used by the T.O. Tomasello Company of Watsonville, California, on ebay.  It features a U.S. fighter plane.  I got it along with several other labels featuring airplanes, thinking it would be cute to frame them for my then-young son’s airplane-themed room.

I never did get around to framing those labels.  Never finished collecting all of the state quarters with him either, but somehow we’ve managed to carry on.

This time of year, tomatoes do indeed dominate.  The tomato season in Houston is short, and the tomatoes are not pretty, but they taste great.  These heirloom tomatoes from the farmers market a few weeks ago were wonderful with sliced red onions and kirby cucumbers, drizzled with a little olive oil and red wine vinegar.


Although the Houston tomato season is pretty much over, we’re enjoying vine-ripened tomatoes from other parts of the U.S.  My research indicates that Florida is the largest producer of fresh market tomatoes, whereas California produces almost all of the tomatoes processed in the U.S.  The USDA says that we eat between 22-24 pounds of tomatoes per person annually, with more than half of those tomatoes used in ketchup and tomato sauce.  And according to one survey, 93% of U.S. gardening households grow tomatoes.

The scientific name for tomatoes is lycopersicum (technically, either lycopersicon lycopersicum or solanum lycopersicum, depending on who you think is correct — oh, the controversies that arise in the plant-naming world!), which means “wolf peach,” and has its origins in German werewolf myths.  According to legend, the nightshade plant (tomatoes are in the nightshade family) was used in potions by witches and sorcerers to change themselves into werewolves.  When the similar, but larger tomato arrived in Europe, it was called “wolf peach.”

Tomatoes are believed to have originated in the Andes.  The word tomato comes from the Aztec “xitomate,” which means “plump thing with a navel.”  So the next time your loved one refers to you as a hot tomato, don’t be so flattered.

Botanically speaking, a tomato is a fruit.  For culinary purposes, which, let’s face it, are far more important than botanical purposes, a tomato is considered a vegetable.  As I told my son, when he was studying for his theology final and trying to explain the difference between knowledge and wisdom:

Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; 

Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad
Well, they may not be great in fruit salad, but tomatoes — especially ripe summer tomatoes — are wonderful in vegetable salads.  Inspired by the Dominator tomato crate label, this recipe for Pomodoro Basilico Salad makes great use of the season’s fresh tomatoes, and really allows the tomato to be the star of this salad.  For the very best results, use a good quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Recipe type: Salad, Vegetable, Vegetarian
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 12 calamata olives, sliced
  • 6 large basil leaves, thinly sliced into ribbons
  • ½ of a small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Place tomatoes, olives, basil, and onion in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together oil and vinegars, and pour over tomato mixture. Stir gently to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Just before serving, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.




You say to-may-to, I say delicious


Ever since I attended the Herb Symposium last month, I’ve been on the lookout for herbs to add to my collection.  The other day I found this Mexican Oregano, with its pretty orchid-colored blossoms:


I’ve always had a pot of oregano among my herbs, but it was either Greek or Mediterranean.  This was the first time I had seen, or at least noticed, Mexican oregano.  Unlike the grayish-green rounded leaves of the other varieties, this one had bright green, pointed leaves:

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I can’t wait to use it in a recipe, and those flowers are going to make a pretty garnish.

Oregano is used frequently in Mexican recipes, and one that we really love is Ninfa’s Carrot Relish.  These pickled carrots were always on the table at Ninfa’s, along with legendary red and green salsas.  The recipe appeared in the Houston Chronicle years ago, and I’ve made it many times since.  One time, my Dad threw some leftover cauliflower into the warm brine, and it was so good, that he declared, “I don’t know why you would ever make it any other way.”  Gotta agree with you, Dad — it is even better with the cauliflower!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Recipe type: Vegetables
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 12 chiles de arbol
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled, diagonally sliced ⅛" thick
  • 1 cup cauliflower florets
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced onion
  • 3 ounces canned pickled jalapenos
  1. Place water, oil, and vinegar in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Add chiles, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add oregano, cumin, pepper, salt, and sugar and simmer 5 minutes longer. Add carrots, onion, cauliflower, and jalapenos, and simmer approximately 10 minutes, or until carrots have reached desired consistency (they should be relatively firm). Transfer to jar, allow to cool, then refrigerate.



Chiles de arbol add just the right kick

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Why would you ever make it without cauliflower?