In Season: Tomatoes

If Bobby Britt has a mantra, it’s got to be “imagunna.”

“Imagunna, imagunna. It’s always imagunna,” Britt, a quiet man with easy charm, explained as he took me on a tour of his property. “I’m a-gonna start another crop of squash; I’m a-gonna plant more okra.”

But where would he find the time? For the past three years Britt has been converting his large garden into a small farm, clearing trees and extending rows into two neighboring lots that stretch well behind his home in DeKalb County, seven miles southeast of downtown Decatur.

Just the tomato plants are enough to keep a guy busy. Britt has more than 600 this summer, in seven varieties: Cherokee purple, green zebra, black zebra, Big Beef, Celebrity, Sungold and Olivade.

He also has 200 pimento plants, plus rows and rows of okra, eggplant, long beans, corn and squash. In all, it’s about 3 acres of land, he said, which he nurtures using organic growing methods. He calls it Besmaid Garden Essentials, named after an old ice cream company where his father used to work.

This year’s tomato crop, his largest to date, is coming in like gangbusters. Each plant is loaded with fruit — happy news for the chefs and shoppers who have been impatiently waiting for the good stuff to get here.

Britt planned to start harvesting in earnest this week. Two weeks ago, it was just a trickle. “I brought three tomatoes to market,” he mused. “Three!” That won’t be the case this Saturday, when he’ll surely be hauling in tomatoes by the bushel.

Britt says his family is proud of his decision to try farming full time. His brother Jeff had some special words of praise, he said. “He told me I’m out standing in my field.”

You can find Britt’s tomatoes and other produce at the Decatur Farmers Market (4-7 p.m. Wednesdays, 9 a.m.-noon Saturdays) and, soon, at the Marietta Square Farmers Market (9 a.m.-noon Saturdays).

Speaking of tomatoes: Music, cooking demonstrations and recipe contests are all part of the fun at the Dunwoody Green Market’s tomato festival, scheduled for Wednesday. The market’s regular hours are 8 a.m.-noon Wednesdays, next to the post office at 1551 Dunwoody Village Parkway.

At local farmers markets

Arugula, beans, beets, blueberries, bok choy, cabbage, carrots, chicory, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, field peas, figs, green beans, garlic, greens, herbs, kale, kohlrabi, lambsquarters, leeks, lettuce, okra, onions, peaches, peppers, potatoes, summer spinach, summer squash, Swiss chard, turnips, tomatoes, watermelon, zucchini

From farther afield

Looking good: Chilean apples, Virginia beans, Guatemalan blackberries, Georgia and California blueberries, California and Michigan cabbage, Georgia and Carolina cantaloupe, Washington cherries, California and Georgia corn, Georgia and North Carolina eggplant, California and South Carolina greens, Chilean kiwifruit, Florida okra, California oranges, California peppers, South Carolina and Michigan summer squash, Arkansas and South Carolina tomatoes, Florida and Georgia watermelon

Coming in: Washington apricots, Mexican asparagus, Michigan and Oregon blueberries, Virginia cabbage, California and Indiana cantaloupe, Virginia corn, California honeydews, Appalachian and New Jersey nectarines, Chilean and South African oranges, Appalachian and New Jersey peaches, Virginia and Ohio summer squash, Virginia tomatoes, Appalachian and Indiana watermelon

Variable quality: California artichokes, Guatemalan beans, California and Southeast blackberries, New Jersey blueberries, California raspberries and strawberries, Texas watermelon

From local reports, the Packer


Tomato and Quinoa Salad

Hands on: 10 minutes Total time: 20 minutes Serves: 8 (as side dish)

Ever wish you could make a meal out of nothing but real summer tomatoes? By adding a little quinoa, you pretty much can. Quinoa is a whole grain that is gaining in popularity because of its fast cooking time, nutty taste and impressive nutrient profile (which includes protein).

1 cup uncooked red, white or black quinoa

3 cups chopped tomatoes

1/2 Vidalia onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place quinoa in a saucepan with 2 cups cold water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until quinoa is tender and its germ “tails” open, about 15 minutes. Rinse under cold water and drain.

Meanwhile, in a bowl combine the tomatoes, onion, garlic and basil. Stir in oil and vinegar. Add the cooled and drained quinoa and stir gently to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Per serving: 127 calories (percent of calories from fat, 33), 3 grams protein, 19 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 5 grams fat (1 gram saturated), no cholesterol, 11 milligrams sodium.