This little red tomato was plucked, warts and all, off an Early Girl plant in my garden. There is a ripe satisfaction to the first tomato of the year, the pleasure of rewarded patience. When you run your fingers down that fragrant green stem and emerge from a thicket of leaves, warmed by the sun, with a perfectly ripe fruit, not shipped from afar or artificially reddened, it feels as if the promise of the garden is something real, something to be cherished and eaten whole.
Of course, not all of us have gardens, and my garden has only yielded this one precious fruit so far. The farmers markets, though, are about to burst forth with ripe tomatoes of all shapes and sizes, and it's best to be prepared. If you have held off on eating mealy, cottony tomatoes all winter and spring, what will you do when you get your hands on the real things now? Will you eat them whole and raw? Will you make perfect caprese salads? Do you crush, cook, and can them?
The first tomato of the season is here. Have you had yours yet?
Related: Recipe: The Perfect Tomato Salad
(Images: Faith Durand)