Officially, summer doesn't end until the Autumnal Equinox, which this happens this year on Friday, September 23 (at 9:04am, if you want to be accurate.) But, as everyone knows, Labor Day is the unofficial end -- the day that swimming pools close, lifeguards go off duty at local beaches and white shoes and seersucker suits must be stored in the back of the closet not to reappear until Memorial Day.
But this year, summer certainly seemed to end with bang with Hurricane Irene. Apart from the downed trees, flooding and power outages, there's been a definite chill in the air since she passed through. A coolness in the morning grass and the sight of already-changing leaves. It makes me think of apple picking and baked squash. Homemade cookies and pies. Chunky sweaters and back to school.
But wait, tomatoes??? It's time for tomatoes? Despite August's rainy weather, most tomatoes escaped the dreaded late blight that decimated last year's crop. (Okay, except mine. Mine were decimated both years. I need to stop taking that August vacation!)
And this year, I've been exposed to more varieties of tomatoes than I ever knew existed. I've planted Brandywine and Green Zebras before and thought I was being oh so cutting edge. (We won't even discuss the hybrid Big Boy, Beefsteak, and Big Girl the plant stores sell. Too common!) But at the local farmer's markets and farms, I've counted over 20 different varieties, some of which look more like the fruit tomatoes really are than the vegetable. Like the Wapsicon Peach -- a small golden tomato with peachy fuzz and a delicate, fruity flavor. The Black Cherry with skin to match and a sweet-savory taste. Cherokee purple, Hillbilly, Rose de Berne, Valencia . . . Who knew there were so many different types and styles of tomato?
If you're lucky enough to come across these beauties (and I think you've probably only got another week of them), there's really nothing to do other than just eat them. Drizzle a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar over them, maybe chop up the last of the fresh basil from your garden, top with a dusting of salt and pepper and enjoy the last bit of summer.
Then get out those chunky sweaters and get ready for school!