Tomato season
Tomato season

Summertime is upon us at the Ishihara Park Learning Garden. The tomatoes have emerged and are getting ready to turn from light green to ruby red. Once they do, they are ready to harvest. There is nothing more rewarding than plucking a red, juicy tomato straight from the plant. It should come away with a gentle tug and be ready for you to eat from your hand or to save for use in a salad, pasta, or jam! This fruit packs a nutritional punch (and yes, it is technically a fruit because it has seeds and grows from a flowering plant) as it is rich in potassium, vitamin C, and lycopene, an antioxidant that is linked to the reduction of heart disease. Come learn about growing and harvesting tomatoes at the Ishihara Park Learning Garden from 9:30-11am on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Tomatoes have also arrived at the Farmer’s Market, and their arrival is timed perfectly with the sun’s return here in Santa Monica. Rows upon rows of cherry tomatoes, with colors ranging from a buttery yellow, bright orange, and a glistening lipstick red: dare me to pass them by. I can never resist.

I can easily just eat cherry tomatoes by the handful, or if I am feeling classy, maybe on toast with a bit of sea salt, olive oil, and labneh (a Middle Eastern cheese from strained yogurt) or cream cheese. This sweet cherry jam recipe is my attempt to capture and bottle the essence of summer and its relaxed sweetness and to tuck its tastiness away for a cloudier day.

 Cherry Tomato Jam Recipe:

1 lb cherry tomatoes cut in half

4 dates chopped

2 TBS cane sugar

1 TBS lemon juice

½ TBS crushed ginger

1 tsp cumin

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp salt

Dash of cayenne pepper


  1. Combine all ingredients in a large pot and bring the mixture to a boil.
  2. Turn the heat to a low simmer, and stir the mixture every 2 – 3 minutes for 15 – 20 minutes until the date pieces meld with the tomato mixture.
  3. Once everything has reduced and melded together, remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.
  4. Pour jam into a jar and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Oh, yes, remember to recycle the organic remnants from your preparation in your green bin or your household or community compost.  We are eager to learn what you typically do with your organic kitchen and cooking scraps.  Please tell us by taking our community compost survey.

Salima Saunders