Thursday, June 24, 2010

Corn + Tomatoes

When I was a little girl in Northern New York, we had a farm stand out by the side of the road where we sold extra vegetables from the huge garden our family planted.   A car would stop and one of us would go out and help the folks with fresh corn, zucchini or tomatoes. Or if we weren’t home, people were on the honor system, and would take what they needed and leave their dollar or so in the jar.

My mom taught me that corn should be eaten as fresh as possible from the garden to the table, which meant going out to the garden to pick it just before dinner.  That was always the job for my brother John and me. We would have contests to see who could shuck the fastest, and then we would run back to the house with it, running carefully across our gravel driveway in our bare feet to our mom.  She’d get it into the pot, or on the grill as soon as possible.

Every morning we would have to go out to the garden and do our chores before we were allowed to play. Usually it was only weeding a few rows, and watering the plants. I’m sure it only took ten or fifteen minutes, but it seemed like it was BLAZING hot and that I was spending hours out there. While I was out there, I often would grab an ear of corn, peel down the husk and eat it raw. What an amazing taste. 

We would also eat tomatoes, right off the vine. I especially loved the little cherry tomatoes.  After our chores, we were allowed to go swimming, ride our bikes or play in the woods. Then we would come inside for lunch. While we were doing cannonballs in the lake, Dad and Mom would have harvested lettuces, tomatoes, onions, herbs, carrots and more from the garden, and it would be all on the table. We would make salads or huge sandwiches for lunch. I loved being all together as a family and making food at the table.

When I moved to Richmond, I learned about the legendary Hanover tomato. Hanover tomatoes are so legendary and revered that several festivals are dedicated to them, and their arrival is excitedly awaited by young and old.  Apparently the soil in Hanover County Virginia is the key ingredient to the specialness of this tomato. At the Hanover Tomato Festival you eat tomatoes, dress like tomatoes and there is even a Little Miss./Tiny Miss Hanover Tomato Pageant! Those are the people contests. The tomatoes can win best salsa, best tomato and prettiest tomato.

Now that I’m grown up, my husband and I have moved up a step from that farm stand beside the road, and have opened an indoor farmer’s market, the Farm to Family Market, where everything is local. I get excited when our customers pull up the same way I did when a car would stop when I was a kid, and I try to help them find the fresh food that will delight their palate and nourish their family.

Two wonderful things happened this week for lovers of fresh food here in Central Virginia – Hanover Tomatoes are ripe, and sweet corn is ready.  A few days ago we started getting phone calls, emails and Tweets asking us if we had Hanovers yet.

Are Hanover Tomatoes really the best? Mark and I live just seconds over the Hanover County line, on the other side of the Chickahominy Swamp, in Henrico County. Our Henrico tomatoes are ripe this week too. We decided to do a taste test. Henrico County vs Hanover. Usually, the food you grow yourself tastes the best. It just does.  We hate to admit it,  but hands down, those Hanover tomatoes were better than the ones from our back yard just a few miles away.

The following recipe comes from my friend Briggs Saroch, here in Richmond. It combines both corn and tomatoes, in chowder form, which is one of my favorite ways to eat it.  If you don’t live where you can get Hanover Tomatoes, then use tomatoes from your back yard,  or patio containers, or from the local farmer’s market.  Try to get your corn as fresh as possible, maybe from some kids roadstand. If you ask, they will go out to the field and pick it for you so it is superfresh.  Get your kids to help by having them shuck the corn.  

Briggs’ seasoning style is to taste, so make sure you taste and then adjust.  Pair it with some fresh crusty bread, and a green salad for a perfect summer meal. Enjoy!

Tomato Corn Chowder
4 ears corn scraped off cob with knife
2 medium fresh tomatoes – preferably Hanovers
4 cups veggie stock
1/2 cup light cream *
1 bunch scallions (or to taste)
1-2 carrots cut up fresh
2 TBS olive oil
little thyme – fresh is fine
little basil – fresh is fine
little garlic
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Saute veggies with bit of olive oil till just barely soft.
Mix everything up together.
Simmer, add cream/milk just before serving but make sure it’s hot.

* Farm to Family Market’s Mt View Farms Meow Milk has that extra creaminess that works well in lieu of cream. If you avoid dairy, you can use any other type of milk – nut, hemp, soy or rice milk, but make sure that it’s an unsweetened variety.



  1. Virginia is lucky to have you!!!

  2. Sounds good but TOO hot to attempt tonight. Visited the store this past Saturday. Can't wait to come back this week-end for some Hanovers & corn. Hoping blackberries will still be there too.

  3. This is so cool, Suzi! It's nice to know more about you-
    I haven't been to your new store yet, but look forward to coming and seeing the new venture. You guys are great!


  4. Just got some Hanovers from the Farm2Fam bus and they were phenomenal! We are so lucky to have such a fabulous tomato gem in the local area, can't wait for more!

  5. I'm going to try your tomato corn chowder. Do you remember Ann Hadden's tomato salad? It's Ashley's favovite and I can't wait until the cherry tomatoes are ripe so that we can have it again. Our vegetables are away behind yours here in the North Country.

    Cut a bunch of cherry tomatoes in half
    Add other salad vegetables. I slice baby cucumbers, green onions or red onions or Vidalia onions, chopped or sliced or however you like them.
    Sliced black olives are a must.
    I put mozzarela in it once and that was nice.
    The secret of this salad is in the dressing.
    Although I never measure the vegetables, I am very fussy about measuring for the dressing.
    1/2 cup olive oil
    1/4 cup red wine vinegar
    1/2 tsp salt
    1/8 tsp pepper
    1 tsp basil - as Suzi say's Fresh is nice
    1/4 tsp thyme - ditto
    Garlic chopped. Recipe calls for 1 clove, but I put in 4 last time and it was better.

    Chill before serving. It's better the next day, if there's any left, but you need to bring it out half an hour or so before you eat. as the oil solidifies.

    Suzi's Mom

  6. I couldn't resist adding my favorite corn chowder. We just had it the other day and is one of my favorite chowders. The recipe calls for salt pork, but when I am in Virginia I use side meat. We can't get that here in the North Country, so I froze some and brought it home with me when I came home for the summer.

    1/4 pound side pork, diced (or salt pork)
    1 onion chopped
    Corn-if you have fresh corn, you should use about 6 cups and you should add it towards the end. Fresh corn shouldn't cook more that five minutes. If not, use 2 cans of cream corn and 1 can of regular corn.
    2 cups water
    5 potatoes, peeled and diced.
    1 1/2 tsps salt
    4 cups milk
    1/4 tsp black pepper

    In a Dutch oven, cook the side meat or salt pork over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, so that all of the the pork pieces become brown, but not too dry. Remove the cooked meat with a slotted spoon and set aside.
    Saute onion in the drippings until just tender, but not brown. Remove the onion with a slotted spoon and discard the fat.
    Return the onion to the pan and stir in canned corn, water, potatoes and salt, cooking, uncovered until the potatoes are almost soft. (If you're using fresh corn, add just before potatoes are done. Cook five minutes.) Add milk and simmer very gently for 10 or 15 minutes. Add pepper. Sprinkle the surface with the pork pieces. Serve immediately. Serve with some nice crusty bread.

    I always thought this would be good with some seafood, such as crab.

    I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my family does.

    Suzi's Mom

  7. Thanks so much for the recipes Suzi's mom!!! I agree...the crab would be a great addition!! I love crab/corn chowder.

  8. Suzi
    I can't wait to make this when we are back east in July. Not sure we can get Hanover's but the tomatoes out on LI are also divine.
    Love the blog!!

  9. haha thanks mom. maybe we should change the name to Farm to Family Wife + Mom. You can guest blog anytime you want.