In Season | Tomatoes

Written by Daniel Doyle

Photographed by Joe Worthem

When  warm weather arrives, most Mississippians crave tomatoes, the South’s star summer crop. Whether green, purple, orange, yellow or the iconic red – fresh, locally grown tomatoes are readily available at farmers markets beginning in June. 

At Canebrake Farm in Oxford, Monica and Charlie Dawson produce many heirloom varieties, from customer favorites like ‘Cherokee Purple,’ ‘Yellow Pear’ and ‘Red Brandywine’ to their personal preference, ‘Pink Berkeley Tie Dye.’

“This tomato has the best flavor,” Charlie Dawson said of the pink tie-dye. “It is not too sweet or acidic, but balanced just right. They are the best slicing tomatoes around.”

The Dawsons grow much of the food their family of five consumes, sharing the bounty with the greater Oxford community at local farmers markets and through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) memberships, a service that offers seasonal produce for sale directly from local farmers throughout the growing season. 

Wanting to feed their own family, friends and CSA members with the highest-quality, healthiest food they can produce also affects how the Dawsons choose to farm. 

By using permaculture practices, a system of growing food that mimics natural patterns, the Dawsons pay close attention to the health of their soil. They do not use synthetic pesticides or artificial fertilizers, instead choosing natural methods of pest control while using compost and manure from their own chickens. All their beds are prepared by hand and fall on contour to catch and store more rainwater. They are gradually moving toward a no-till method meant to allow the natural microbial life in the soil to flourish and feed the plants.

The Dawsons say not only is this method better for the environment, but it also makes their produce nutritious and flavorful. 

“When Monica and I first met, the thing we both instantly recognized and loved about each other was our passion for good food, especially homegrown produce,” Charlie said.

The Dawsons also like incorporating their tomatoes into home-cooked meals. Many of Monica’s favorite recipes were inspired by her Filipino roots.

“Food is the center of Filipino culture, and the flavors just knock you out,” Charlie said.

Fried Eggs with Garlic Fried Rice and Filipino Tomato Relish

Tomato Relish

2 large tomatoes, diced

2 Tablespoons minced onion

2 garlic cloves, minced

¼ cup soy sauce

¼ cup vinegar

Mix together tomatoes, onion and garlic. Add soy sauce and vinegar. Stir, and set aside. 

Garlic Fried Rice

3 Tablespoons olive oil

5 garlic cloves, minced

4 cups cooked rice

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon soy sauce

2 eggs

Heat olive oil in large skillet or wok. Add garlic, and sauté until it begins to brown. Add cooked rice, and stir until rice is hot. Add sesame oil and soy sauce, and stir for 1 minute. Remove from heat. In a different pan, fry eggs. Add tomato relish to rice. Serve with fried eggs on top.

Fish Sarciado (Fish with Sauce) over Rice

1 pound fresh fish fillet (any white, flaky fish)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon lemon juice

¼ cup olive oil

5 garlic cloves, minced

¼ cup minced onion

1 large tomato, diced

2 eggs

¼ cup water

Soy sauce or fish sauce to taste

Cooked rice

Scallions for garnish

Season fish with salt and lemon juice, and let sit for 20 minutes. In a large skillet, fry fish in olive oil over medium-high heat until light brown on both sides. Remove from pan, and let cool and drain on a paper towel.

In a different skillet, sauté garlic and onion until onion is translucent. Add tomato, and cook until soft. Add eggs, and stir to scramble. Add water and fish sauce or soy sauce to taste. Simmer until slightly thickened. Add fried fish to sauce, and cook for 2 minutes.

Serve over cooked rice. Garnish with scallions, if desired.

Categories: Current Features