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Bringing tomatoes and peppers together in a simple dish

By Kate Lechler

I didn’t get very many large tomatoes from my plot at the community garden this year.

Instead, most of my plants got the blight, turning brown and crusty from the bottom up. Lifelong gardeners have reliably informed me that growing tomatoes can be a mystery on the level of the vanished colony at Roanoke, so I try not to feel too bad.

Still, it’s a crying shame — there’s nothing more lush than the bright red of a freshly cut homegrown tomato. You want to lick the cutting board afterward.

I did get, however, plenty of cherry tomatoes and banana peppers. I love those banana peppers. Far from the hand-sized waxy cylinders I can buy at the grocery store, these were small, twisted, and streaked with purple and red — and, more importantly, plentiful.

I took these beauties home and arranged them in a bowl. After a few days, they filled a few bowls. My husband and I just got married, so we’re not in any danger of running out of bowls; but we were in danger of running out of flat surfaces. So I decided to put my crop of peppers and cherry tomatoes to good use, and made a tomato salad, dressed with good vinegar. It was delicious.

My tomatoes and peppers have all but come to a stop at this point; it’s time to rip out the beds, do some hearty hoeing, and plant my fall garden. I’m planning for lots of greens, carrots, onions, and my husband’s favorite, broccoli.

But I can’t wait for next summer, when the jewel-like cherry tomatoes and corkscrew banana peppers return. I hope you’ll consider joining the Oxford Community Garden Association and giving me some tips on my large tomatoes.

The Oxford Community Garden Association works to enhance the well-being and beauty of the community by assisting people in growing fresh produce, providing locally-grown food to people in need, increasing social interaction in the community, and creating an educational garden in an attractive setting. It is located east of the new pavilion and south of the skate park, at University Avenue and Bramlett Boulevard.

To find out more visit oxfordcga.org, or email garden president Jason Hoeksema at ox-fordcga@gmail.com to ask questions or inquire about availability of a plot.

Cherry Tomato and Banana Pepper Salad

3 handfuls of cherry tomatoes

2 handfuls of banana peppers

Half of a red onion

Bunch of basil

1 tbsp olive oil

Balsamic vinegar, to taste

Salt and pepper, to taste

Slice the cherry tomatoes in half; put them in a bowl, and sprinkle a little salt on them.

Cut off the tops of the banana peppers; core

Slice in thin rings; add to bowl.

Chiffonade the basil; add to bowl.

Dress with olive oil, balsamic vinegar (not too much!), and salt and pepper.

Kate Lechler is a local gardener. Contact her at katelechler@gmail.com.