Grow Local: Big Train Farm Tomatoes
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Of the many fruits and vegetables whose flavor begins to suffer as soon as it’s picked from the plant, tomatoes are one of the most volatile and tasty. I stopped to talk with John Kenny, Farm Manager for Big Train Farm in Cranston, about his tomato crop and providing land, tools, and resources for a new generation of farmers.
New models for old-style farming
Big Train Farm is part of the Urban Edge Farm, a collective of seven farms on 50 acres in Western Cranston owned by the RI Department of Agriculture as part of the Open Space Preservation Act and managed by Southside Community Land Trust. The seven farms on the property collaboratively manage operations and maintenance. “[I'm] excited to be part of a model," Kenny said, "that I think could really make agriculture more available to consumers and to potential new farmers who’ve got the skill set but not necessarily the infrastructure of family farm.”
From beefsteak to heirloom
In addition to the standard beefsteak and grape (Chiquita) tomatoes, Kenny grows nine different varieties of heirloom tomatoes that he knows to be high in quality with good yielding plants. Some of his varieties are Brandywines and Soldackis but his favorite is Aunt Ruby’s German Green. It’s a large fruit that ripens to a pale green with a tiny bit of yellow and possibly a hint of pink blush at the blossom end. Considered sweet and slightly spicy, it's got a great flavor.
I don’t know about you, but I know what I think of when I see a green tomato, even one that ripens green like the Aunt Ruby’s - fried green tomatoes. I learned a lot of my cooking in the South so I was taught all you need is some cornmeal, bacon drippings, salt and pepper to make this delicacy, but if you want to add some cayenne pepper or even some smoked paprika (it’s kind of Southern if you think about it) to the cornmeal I wouldn’t stop you. Also, I dip my tomato slices in buttermilk first. Not traditional, but you find me a Southerner who doesn’t love buttermilk fried anything. Enjoy!
Fried Green Tomatoes
Green tomato, ¼” thick slices
Stone ground cornmeal, fine ground
Bacon drippings (or vegetable oil if you must)
Fresh ground black pepper
Salt and pepper both sides of your tomato slices. Put the cornmeal and any spices in a shallow baking dish or bowl. Put the buttermilk in a second shallow baking dish or bowl. Place a cast iron skillet with ½” of drippings or oil over medium-high heat. Dip the tomato slices in the buttermilk, dredge in the cornmeal and then fry until golden brown and delicious on both sides, about 3-4 minutes per side. Place the finished tomatoes on a paper-towel lined rack and serve, perhaps with a little Tabasco if desired.
Big Train Farm, 35 Pippin Orchard Rd, Cranston, 243-4212, for more information about Southside Community Land Trust and the Urban Edge Farm, go here.
- Grow Local: Schartner Farms Blueberries
- Grow Local: Salisbury Farm Strawberries
- Grow Local: Allen Farms Pea Greens
- Grow Local: Ledge Ends Garlic Scapes
- Grow Local: Matunuck Oysters
- Grow Local: Poblano Farm Salsa
- Grow Local: The Reynolds Barn Goat Cheese
- Grow Local: Aquidneck Honey