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If you asked me what produce I’m most looking forward to at the beginning of each summer, it’s hands down the tomato. Like so many others, I relish the summer fruit (or vegetable depending on where you fall) over so many other in season produce items for their seriously tender and juicy interior.

When I was a kid, the sweet couple that lived behind my parents’ house gifted us a generous portion of the massive garden that separated our yard from theirs. We grew everything from squash to peppers to five different varieties of tomatoes and more. One summer we had such an abundance of all the produce, my parents let us set up shop just outside our neighborhood to sell the overflow to hungry customers. I netted something like $200, the equivalent to winning the lottery for a kid. Of course this wasn’t before we snagged plenty of tomatoes for ourselves. Night after night I can remember my Mom cutting up the tomatoes, sprinkling sugar over them, and serving them alongside whatever meal we happened to me eating that night. I never failed to inhale at least one whole tomato during dinnertime, and to this day I still feel nostalgic when I sprinkle a little bit of sugar over a plethora of homegrown tomatoes.

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Kevin and I are trying to produce massive quantities of juicy tomatoes on our own this year, and I’m hopeful they’ll be as good as the ones I remember growing up, but I’m prepping myself for disappointment. Luckily, if it doesn’t work out for us, I can just pop on over to a local farmer’s market to pick up as many ripe tomatoes as my grocery bag can hold – which is exactly what I’ve been doing thus far.

I love to search out different varieties of tomatoes for the funkiest looking creature I can find. Some yellow, some orange, some a soft pink or dark green. Some looking like the Lochness monster, some looking like Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage. Some big, some little. Really, any shape, color or size will do.

While I adore the tomatoes on their own, one of my other favorite ways to utilize them is in a fresh summer salad. Today I’m sharing, the last of the Farmer’s Garden recipes with you, and perhaps my favorite of them all – Garden Pickles and Heirloom Tomatoes over Baby Greens.

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Building the salad is simple, chopped Kosher dill pickle spears and heirloom tomatoes are tossed in a quick vinaigrette made with balsamic vinegar, brine from the pickles, olive oil, salt and pepper. The mixture is gently set on top of peppery arugula and then sprinkled with a generous chiffonade of basil and shredded parmesan cheese.

The dill pickles here are perfect briny bite to the heirlooms and balsamic vinegar and I love that the pickles and tomatoes are grown and tended to in similar ways. While the tomatoes are lovingly cared for by local Farmer’s and free of pesticides and other questionable ingredients, the Farmer’s Garden™ by Vlasic® pickles are artisanal-quality, premium pickles, made with honest ingredients and no artificial flavors. Farmer’s Garden pickles are made with the finest, specially selected ingredients – deliciously ripe cucumbers, whole garlic cloves, slices of red bell pepper, rounds of carrots and fresh herbs and spices – harvested at the peak of freshness, much like market tomatoes are.

I actually love that this is the last installment, because I feel like an easy salad is the perfect finishing touch to all the previous dishes I’ve shared. All four dishes together would make the perfect summer barbecue or picnic menu. Hot dogs, BLT’s, easy tuna crostini and fresh tomato salad – summer doesn’t get much tastier than that, does it?

Get the recipe here!

Vlasic Heirloom Tomato Salad

Again, don’t forge to enter for a chance to win a summer entertaining package, worth $1,500, through the Savor Simplicity Sweepstakes. Visit www.farmersgardenvlasic.com to enter and for more information on Savor Simplicity.

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