Tomato to-do: Celebrate summer’s favorite taste next week

tomatorCHARLES TOWN – Every year about this time I recall a funny episode with my twin nephews when they were about 4. It had been an awful wet, stormy day with thunder, lightning and tornado warnings. When my sister arrived to pick them up from preschool that afternoon, they ran to her car, quickly buckled themselves in and cried: “Hurry, we have to get home! There’s a big tomato comin’!”

I am happy to announce that on Aug. 16, there really is a “big tomato” coming— the Tomato Fest of the Eastern Panhandle. It’s time to savor the fleeting moment of the homegrown tomato.

Join the fun from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Dillon Farm in Hedgesville as the Extension Master Gardeners of Berkeley and Jefferson Counties host their annual Tomato Fest.

The festival will feature a free tasting of about 50 different tomato varieties. The winner of last year’s best flavor was a fourth-generation tomato from the Garrison family of Pennsylvania. It was obtained by local tomato guru Randy Sine through his colleague Walker Roach.

Garrison and some others in the tasting are not available commercially. The runner-up in the tastings was Brimmer, an oldie but goodie from the turn of the last century.

The fest also will feature a speaker discussing “Seed to Seed – Life Cycle of the Tomato” and local chef Steve Weiss offering a cooking demonstration. Also planned: Home gardeners and canners sharing their strategies for preserving this jewel of summer.

You can check out our Master Gardener tomato recipes at 

If you have tomatoes ripening today, here are three favorite yummy recipes for tonight.


  • 1 small loaf French bread
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 2 cucumbers
  • 1 red sweet pepper
  • 1 yellow sweet pepper
  • ½ medium purple onion
  • 20 basil leaves
  • 3 Tablespoons oil plus ½ cup oil
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

Cut bread, tomatoes, cucumber and peppers into one-inch cubes. Thinly slice the onion. Coarsely chop the basil.

Heat the 3 tablespoons of oil in sauté pan. Add bread and salt to taste. Cook over low heat, tossing bread for 10 minutes.

Make vinaigrette by mincing garlic and whisking it into the ½ cup of oil, Dijon mustard and white wine vinegar. In a large bowl, toss all vegetables with bread and vinaigrette. Season with the salt and pepper to taste.

This recipe was contributed by our member Ann Lossman of Martinsburg.



  • 5 slices of bacon
  • 1 Tablespoon mixed herbs of your choice (a mix of basil, thyme and oregano is good; use only 1 tablespoon of the mix total, not a tablespoon of each herb)
  • 1½ cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 6 large tomatoes (sliced about 1/4” thick)
  • 1 small onion (sliced thinly)
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups Swiss cheese (grated)
  • 3 eggs
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Dice bacon and lightly cook to remove some fat. Drain. Mix breadcrumbs with herbs. Butter a pie dish and sprinkle half the breadcrumbs evenly in bottom of dish.

Arrange half the tomatoes, overlapping on crumbs. Top with onion slices and season with salt and pepper to taste. Top the vegetable layer with half the cheese. Repeat layer with remaining breadcrumbs, tomatoes, onion and cheese. Remember to add salt and pepper to second layer before adding cheese.

Lightly beat the eggs. Pour eggs over the cheese and tomato layers. Grate nutmeg and sprinkle over eggs. Top with bacon and bake for 45 to 50 minutes until bacon is crisp. Cool for 10 minutes and serve.

This recipe was contributed by our member June McIlwain of Hedgesville.



  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Tablespoons oil plus 1/3 cup oil
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1 cup carrots
  • ½ green pepper
  • 4 green onions
  • ¼ cup olives of your choice
  • 3 Tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons basil
  • Salt and pepper

Prepare couscous: Bring water and 1 tablespoon oil to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in couscous. Cover pan and let it steam for 10 minutes.

Prepare vegetables: Chop the tomatoes. Julienne the zucchini. Shred the carrots. Dice the ½ green pepper. Slice the green onions. Quarter the olives.

Mix the remaining 1/3 cup of oil, the vinegar, the Dijon mustard, the basil, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss well with vegetables and couscous. Chill before serving.

Our member Sandra Bernardi of Martinsburg contributed this recipe.

Sharon Bias writes from Charles Town

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