Rejects Renewed

The last Wednesday in August at my CSA pick-up, two rectangular crates of culled tomatoes sat in wait on the floor, “Pick me! Pick me!” they cried, like abandoned dogs outside a pet shop on rescue-adoption days. They weren’t the pretty tomatoes like the ones on the other end of the pavilion. These tomatoes had problems—blemishes, brown spots, nibbled-out tunnels, and such. They knew their destiny. They wouldn’t be selected with all the other fresh goodies bringing smiles to the CSA members as they filled their bags with leafy greens, bright peppers, and homegrown watermelons. The residents of these crates were one day shy of heading back to the field where they’d grown up, but this time they’d be called “compost.” No respectable fruit or vegetable ever strived to become compost. They longed to end up in a healthy salad, a greatly-needed ingredient in a casserole, maybe a sauce. The top tier ones even got to be showcased next to fresh mozzarella and heady basil and given a fancy name, caprese.

I suppose I felt sorry for them, just like those Labra-beagle-chihua-shepherd-doodles with sad eyes crated on the sidewalks. Farmer Floyd saw my expression, and just like the volunteers who taunt you with your possible new-best furry friend, told me these tomatoes were on their way to their demise. Today was their last day on earth in this form. Tomorrow was dooms day. “Help yourself,” Floyd said. “Only thing is you have to use them today. Tomorrow…” and he shook his head. I understood; tomorrow would be too late.

I’m not too proud to pick through the reject crate. Nope. Not too proud at all. Free maters! I filled two plastic Kroger bags with the best of the worst, so to speak. Large, medium, small, cherry, and Roma. Brown spots, white spots, mushy tops, split open, oozing, but all bright red, organic tomatoes grown at Moss Hill Farm. They deserved a chance. So I gave them one.

I brought them home and measured them. It was about 15 pounds of freebies. I set up shop on the counter, washed them, and began chopping away the bad sections. About fifteen of them went into the large stock pot and became homemade tomato soup for tonight’s supper. Another big batch went into a smaller pan to cook into stewed tomatoes that will be frozen in individual bags for future use. And the rest were sliced up thinly with the mandolin filling up seven trays in the Excalibur dehydrator. They’ll be ready in the morning and will last for ages.

So thank you, Farmer Floyd, for what you do and for allowing these rejects another opportunity to make a meal. Even rejects can live their destiny.