Just as I buy pears to paint around Christmas, I buy tomatoes in September. They are just too gorgeous to ignore, winking at me from their glossy piles at the grocery. I so love ripe tomatoes that I even painted myself a big fat fall tomato which hangs in our kitchen year round to remind me of what tomatoes should look like. I was a spoiled child. My dad grew huge beefsteak tomatoes, harnessing the light and heat reflected off the house's white stucco. We ate tomato sandwiches almost every day. This cadmium red bounty lasted well into November because my parents harvested all of the green tomatoes before the first frost and carefully wrapped them in newspaper, where they obligingly ripened. At the time I thought this was quaint; now I realize it was smart. The pink plastic tomatoes of winter have humbled me.
So I shall settle today's beauties into a pretty blue bowl and take lots of pictures. I may even tart them up with a few equally gorgeous eggplants. Did I mention that I bought half-bushels of them, as well as of red peppers? It was only as I began to rehearse ratatouille recipes in my head that the penny dropped: all three are fruits of the solanaceae family or nightshades. This matters only because they have been associated with arthritis, something I have only in September. Funny, that.
Should you decide nonetheless to risk immortalizing and then eating a tomato, there is one other health consideration: cadmium is a heavy metal. One of the many things I owe to Kathy Bailey is a safer palette. Her red is alizarin crimson, considered by ASTM to be harmless, although I think it's fair to assume that they don't expect you to eat it. If combined with a touch of transparent yellow and glazed over white, a highly serviceable tomato red can be created.
However you use them, do enjoy your tomatoes; it's definitely that time of the year.