Fresh, cold, hothouse tomatoes: Screech Owl Farms

LOCAVORE’S DELIGHT: The Series # 4. Follow us all summer long as we explore the bounty of our region’s farms.

Hothouse tomatoes in a Liquor House Salad. Lashings of mayonnaise on the perfect BLT. Tomatoes are a transcendental experience in the summer. Screech Owl Greenhouse in Pittsboro, NC, is where we are getting the most luscious hothouse tomatoes you have ever tasted.

Ralph “Screech” Sweger

Ralph “Screech” Sweger is utilizing biodiesel to heat the greenhouses, so that the plants are fooled into believing that they are thriving in the midst of summer. This has been going on at Screech’s farm since October of last year. Folks-in-the-know have been slow to spread the word for fear of others scooping up the prized tomatoes. They’re quietly picking up Screech’s tomatoes at the Siler City, Pittsboro or Western Wake Farmers’ Markets. We are honored to be offering the best tomatoes in town, months and weeks before field tomatoes find their groove. Pick up a few of Screech’s tomatoes from the Farmer’s Cart outside the Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen restaurants and try them for yourself. Tasting is believing.

Cold tomatoes

This week’s recipes showcase uncooked tomatoes at their peak. We should also mention that the best use of a ripe tomato is on a sandwich. Schmear the bread with mayonnaise (pickled ramp mayonnaise, if you have it), salt and pepper the tomatoes and top with another slice of bread. We’ve got a diagram of our favorite sandwich here, rendered by our friend Chip Holton (to accompany our story on said sandwich on the Southern Foodsways blog).

“After all, a BLT is all about the tomatoes’ sweet acidity heightened by the luxuriousness of the mayonnaise; the bacon plays second fiddle by contributing smokiness and salt (not so much fat, because the best BLTs feature crispy bacon). A slice of cheese would throw the entire thing out of whack. Ultimately, by reducing the ingredients to their base properties, and arranging them thoughtfully, the resulting sandwich can be a transcendental experience.”

Cucumber-Tomato Salad “Liquor House Salad”

  • 1 ½ pounds cucumber
  • 1 pound tomatoes
  • 1 2/3 cups white vinegar
  • 1 ½ tbsp sugar
  • 3 ½ tbsp Soy Sauce

Wash, peel, seed and slice cucumbers. Wash tomatoes and cut into wedges. In a bowl, combine all ingredients. Allow to sit at room temperature for 1 hour before serving. Makes 4 cups.


Tomato Mozzarella Stack

  • 4 tomato slices
  • 3 slices fresh mozzarella
  • .5 oz chiffonade basil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic syrup
  • 7 pinches flake salt
  • 7 pinches fine black pepper
  • 1 tbsp scallion oil (or for an extra adventure, use garlic scape oil)

Season both sides of each slice of tomato and mozzarella with salt and pepper. Alternate layers while stacking in center of a medium round plate, starting with tomato and ending with tomato. Drizzle scallion oil in a circle around plate; drizzle balsamic in zigzag over stack and garnish with chiffonade of basil.

#1 Learning to forage for ramps with Diane Flynt of Foggy Ridge Cider

#2 A wild recipe: Ramps harvested by hand in the Appalachian Mountains for this month’s Chef’s Feature

#3 Slow heat to summer: Green Garlic Confit from Plum Granny Farm

For more about our seasonal recipes, see our current menu at Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen and our Blog Recipe Index:


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