Not just any ole tomato sandwich. I mean a tomato that has that full bodied, ripe, sweet-sharp acidic flavor! A tomato that isn't mushy, or picked early and then ripened up while in cold transit to a solitary warehouse. I've never had a winter tomato that compares to the tomatoes out of our mid summer garden. In winter I often buy the European born Kumato tomatoes that can be found in the grocery store, and they will do if summer tomatoes aren't available.
A summer garden tomato, ground peppercorns and my newly discovered Icelandic sea salt just makes my mouth water. There's a reason this simple tomato sandwich is open faced--so I have the pleasure of tasting the sweet slices of Cherokee Purple and Early Girl and crunchy flakes of Icelandic sea salt and zingy peppercorns as they hit my taste buds at the same time.
The tomatoes taste even better because my husband plowed our bottom land-crumbly-chocolate cake looking soil, with our old Massey Ferguson tractor, and we both plant the tomato plants--most often purchased from Polk County High School FFA club (I usually know the student that sells them to me) and from Ayer's in Landrum for specialty types.
The plants grow while collected rainwater and soaker hoses deliver some water, and we wish for more rain, or less rain. I pull the weeds, pinch off the suckers, till between the rows, pick off the horn worms, and spray my glycerin soapy water to irritate the gossipy Japanese beetles. We stagger the planting, putting in new ones every 3-4 weeks, so we have them longer and they all don't come in at the same time. And just before the first frost, I gather up the green ones that don't have time to ripen and make apple cider vinegar pickled green tomatoes to adorn our sandwiches and compliment soups. Oh my gosh, my mouth is watering.
From June to late August, we gather tomatoes almost daily. Some for pots of marinara and then to the freezer, and some for our friends and family.
We eat them daily--sandwiches, salsa, sauces, soups, salsa, salsa. Oh, my gosh...I should stop...
And while I'm reminiscing and hankering away, I'd love a cold, crisp, sweet Icebox watermelon, with my newly discovered chunky sea salt. Many years ago I lived in Norway for a while, and this Norwegian icy looking salt reminds me of the ice-covered fjords of the Kristiiansand sea. There's something about this combination, because I know where the salt came from, and I certainly know the tomato growers! You can order this salt from Scott, if you'd like some. I covet and hide it in the back if my spice cabinet, way behind the Morton and Kosher salt boxes, to save it for my tomatoes and watermelon.
See what I mean? Beautiful stuff!
But now, the reality is... it's December and a Sunday afternoon in Columbus, NC. The cold, hard, painful fact is, I know I can't get my watermelon or my full-bodied tomatoes again until....this coming summer. But maybe this is why I love them so much, because I can't have them "on demand." Maybe I need a greenhouse on my To Do List. Right now, I'd be happy with a tomato plant to smell, to hold a small, broken stem and breathe in. It's a scent I"ll never forget and one that I wish I could duplicate. I can see it now, on my deathbed, as I take my IV'd arm and shove the scentless, drying-florist-delivered-flower-concoction-that-my-sons-ordered to the floor: My cranky last dying wish: "Someone get me a damn tomato plant!"