Copyright ©2009 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.


In these tough economic times, some people have planted fruit and vegetable gardens. Essayist Diane Roberts says that for the most sublime taste of the season, you can't beat homegrown tomatoes.

DIANE ROBERTS: The French used to call them pommes d'amour: apples of love. The Italians named them pomi d'oro: golden apples. Maybe they were thinking of the golden apples of the Hesperides, given by Gaia, the Earth mother, to Hera, queen of the gods, and grown in a garden at the edge of the sunset. After all, tomatoes came from the mystical West, where the Aztecs cultivated them and ate them mixed with chilies.

When the Spanish brought tomatoes to Europe in the 16th century, people didn't know what to make of them. They might be poisonous. On the other hand, they might be some kind of aphrodisiac like the mandrake plant.

HANSEN: Eden's forbidden fruit should have been a tomato.

Here in North Florida, tomato worship is our warm-weather religion. Fields and farmers' markets are piled high with tomatoes in colors from amethyst to chartreuse, smelling of heaven. We raise our own in backyard vegetable patches. We eat them raw with a little rice vinegar, cooked in a tart or simmered in a sauce.

Some aficionados love tomatoes so much, they want to wallow in that juicy, aromatic flesh. A local bar just down the road in Quincy, Florida has been known to stage a tomato-wrestling contest. Some places like wet T-shirt competitions, the Bottom of the Hill Lounge prefers women dropping body slams in a huge vat of Bonny Bests.

I never could stand to see tomatoes treated that way. Just thinking about it makes me hungry - and it's almost lunchtime. I step out to the vegetable patch. The Brandywines are red as raw steak. The Juliets are as ripe as their Shakespearean namesake. And the Arkansas Travelers are blushing pink. They're practically rolling off the vine.

C: good white bread, mayonnaise, sea salt, three or four slices of heirloom tomato - Cherokee Purple is my favorite. Combine. Eat. This is the voluptuous, dangerous, passionate taste of high summer.

HANSEN: Diane Roberts cultivates her own garden in Tallahassee, Florida.

This is NPR News.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.