I make it a point to only eat tomatoes when they’re in season. After spending the summer months eating sweet and juicy tomatoes from the local farmers market and my own garden, there’s just no going back to those dull and flavorless ones at the grocery store. So how was I able to make my favorite tomato sandwich for lunch yesterday? It’s all thanks to a local farmer's greenhouse.
So how is it possible to have freshly grown tomatoes in Connecticut in May? My favorite local farm has a wood-fired greenhouse that keeps plants warm and allows them to grow tomatoes months ahead of their normal growing season –- how cool is that?!
I won’t even pretend to fully understand the delicate balance of light, temperature, water and soil (and firewood) required to plant tomatoes indoors as early as February. Only certain varieties prosper in these conditions –- the classic Beefsteak is a popular greenhouse farmer choice. Even the greenhouse itself needs to be extra sturdy to support such hardy plants.
My greenhouse tomatoes taste like what they are: amazingly fresh tomatoes. I'll admit they are missing the slightest hint of that mid-summer tomato flavor, but I’ll happily eat them on tomato sandwiches until the summer ones are here.
Grocery stores may also have greenhouse tomatoes –- they are sometimes referred to as “hot house” tomatoes. If they came from a local source, give them a try. If they were flown in from thousands of miles away, you might want to wait until they show up at your farmers' market.
To find a farm growing greenhouse tomatoes near you, ask around at your local farmers’ market or search at localharvest.org.
Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana's full bio »