Tomatoes are integral to Lowcountry cuisine. Many soups, stews, and vegetable dishes owe their distinctive qualities to the humble tomato and its miraculous saucing abilities. With our subtropical climate, 2 crops per year are normal. It is a waste not to have a few tomato plants here, if only on a balcony: nothing matches the flavor of juicy vine-ripened ones. In their absence I often use canned tomatoes in cooked dishes calling for tomatoes; they are invariably better than store-bought and out of season. When the harvest is in, though, I do make my own catsup and sun-dried tomatoes using very old Carolina receipts.

During the 6 months of the Lowcountry tomato season, nearly every meal at my house includes sliced ruby-red ripe tomatoes, sprinkled with good olive oil and salt and pepper. If you grow your own tomatoes, or if you live near a tomato farm, you can enjoy the distinct flavor of the green fruit. Pick rock-hard, unblemished, very round fruits with no sign of red. Slice them thickly, salt and pepper them, brush with oil, and place them on a grill for a few minutes on each side; or dust them with seasoned corn or wheat flour and fry them. A recipe for green tomato relish, a popular Lowcountry condiment.

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