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GARDEN FANATIC: Tomatoes are best from the garden

One of life’s great pleasures is biting into a ripe tomato, and only homegrown tomatoes can be enjoyed within minutes of harvest. I dream about Catharine’s vine-ripened tomatoes during the winter — their perfect acid and bright red color. You can’t find tomatoes like hers at either the finest restaurants or produce stands. I would rather go without than eat an inferior tomato!

Don’t believe the false notions that tomatoes are difficult to grow or that homegrown are more expensive than the so called “just picked” from the market. It’s not true! Remember, tomatoes will never be fresher than being picked from your own garden.

What tomatoes should you grow? Before you ready your plot, review my tomato selections from last week. I prefer “starters” over seeds because Catharine is impatient, and I hate to thin seedlings. And try my wife’s recipe.

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Catharine’s Tomato-Basil Soup

1/2 cup chopped shallots

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon olive oil

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1 can (28 oz.) Roma tomatoes, undrained and cut up

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup snipped fresh basil leaves

1/2 teaspoon instant chicken bouillon granules

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

4 fresh Roma tomatoes, chopped (2 cups), divided

1 cup skim milk, divided

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Combine shallots, garlic and oil in 2-quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 3 to 3 1/2 minutes, or until tender, stirring frequently.

Add canned tomatoes, water, basil, bouillon, sugar and pepper.

Cook for 5 1/2 to 8 minutes, or until mixture is hot and flavors are blended, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.

Combine half of tomato mixture, 2 Roma tomatoes and 1/2 cup milk in food processor or blender. Process until smooth. Set purée aside. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Return puree to saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, or until soup is hot, stirring occasionally.

Spoon into soup bowls. Serves six and tastes great!

“Can you pick up some tomatoes today, honey?” asked Catharine. “I think I would like to make my tomato-basil soup.” She looked at my startled expression a moment, and then added, “You’re right. We’ll wait until our own tomatoes are ready next month.”


STEVE KAWARATANI is happily married to view-espousing writer Catharine Cooper, and has four dogs. He can be reached at (949) 497-8168, or e-mail to plantman2@mac.com.

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