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Beefsteak tomatoes drawing
Beefsteak tomatoes

In the 1960s, winters were cold and snowy, and summers were hot and humid in southern Ontario. Budding teenagers on summer vacation waited impatiently for August to arrive, with sweet corn-on-the-cob, and heavy, juicy beefsteak tomatoes. At family meals, we would polish off three dozen cobs of boiled, buttered and salted corn. Beefsteak tomatoes, purchased by the six-quart basket, were sliced, salted and peppered, and consumed fresh in copious quantities. Barbecued steak was optional. Those beefsteak tomatoes were a real delicacy and would set a high standard for our later lives.

Tomatoes available out of beefsteak season were hard, pallid, tasteless, grey-pink orbs raised in southern US, picked green and bred to withstand the long journey to the 'Frozen North' where they would semi-ripen before being sold in supermarkets across Canada in expensive, unappetising three-packs.

In early adulthood, I moved to Alberta. For tomato lovers on the Canadian Prairies, life was challenging. The growing season is perilously short, for the tomato, originating in Mesoamerica, does not tolerate cold. As frost and snow can arrive during any month, even growing varieties that mature in less than two months can be hazardous. Prairie tomato growers are hopeful folk, but also practical. They always have emergency green tomato recipes at the ready.

I recently moved to a sleepy little town called Redcliff in sunny south-eastern Alberta. A greenhouse industry over a century old has in recent years grown and diversified beyond our fondest dreams. We now have almost 80 acres of greenhouses that are active year-round. Every size and shape from fresh, sweet, juicy grape tomatoes to our beloved beefsteak tomatoes, are available almost inconceivably, from March until early December. Even heritage tomatoes such as the exotic ribbed beef heart are grown.

Some people measure prosperity by the amount of money they have accumulated, but in Redcliff, we feel rich for another reason.

Hugh Semple and Katherine Rankin
Redcliff, Canada

Beefsteak tomatoes are best enjoyed sliced, raw. I shall present two ways that I enjoy them best.

  1. Sliced 1 cm thick, sprinkled with salt and pepper, eaten with corn-on-the-cob and a barbecued steak. All ingredients are available fresh locally in southern Alberta all year round.

  2. While the Americans like to make a BLT (C)[1] grilled, this ruins the lettuce, with slippery, watery results. They also use sliced, processed cheese that we call 'plastic'. BLT (C) is a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich with cheese, and it can be delicious. My way to make it is to toast some multigrain bread and butter it liberally. Add a leaf of romaine lettuce, cooked maple-smoked bacon (preferably 2 layers), a slice of beefsteak tomato that covers the toast, and a slice of sharp Canadian cheddar that again covers the toast. This produces a hearty and very fresh and flavoursome toasted sandwich.

    Bon appetit!

    [1] (C) Refers to the addition of cheese in a BLT.

Beefsteak tomatoes drawing