Right now is the best time of year to eat tomatoes. Last night I made a tomato, onion, sweet bell pepper and basil salad to go with our dinner. The heirloom tomatoes I bought from the farmer in the stall next to us at the 3 French Hens Country Market this past weekend were perfectly ripe, unbelievably flavorful packed with summer’s tomatoey goodness and added the perfect accompaniment for our dinner of pork roast and rice pilaf.
I don’t know about you but when it is tomato season in the Midwest; when the tomatoes have the most amazing flavor, we have to have tomatoes often. So often in fact that I sometimes wonder what will happen if I serve tomatoes Again? That’s when I start to second guess my menu choice and think: will my hubby protest? He never does. God bless him, he was born with a love of all things tomato. I sometimes think he could eat tomatoes breakfast, lunch and dinner and never complain.
To celebrate tomato season I added some pieces to my booth at True North the Warehouse, an antique mall in Morris Illinois. Made in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, these pieces are bright tomato red and shaped like tomatoes. On the bottom of many of the pieces is the mark: “Made in Occupied Japan”. Are you familiar with that mark, do you know what it means? It defines the time period when these ceramics were made. We can definitely date these pieces to the six years when the United States occupied Japan after World War II, 1947 through 1952. Many collectors actively search for pieces marked occupied Japan because of this fact. It gives a true and accurate date for ceramics which in the antiques and vintage world is getting more difficult with the number of items made to look vintage but are not. Whether made to deceive originally or not; at some point someone will be deceived and pay too much for something made a few years ago, aged to look vintage but not the real thing.
Originally these attractive tomato inspired pots and dishes were exported from Japan and sold as novelties at dime stores all over the US. They were originally intended to be inexpensive but have sold in the past(especially in the 1990’s) for much more. Using the Henry Ford method of sales, the Japanese manufacturers of the era were looking to make the largest profit from selling many items with a small price tag rather than selling a few items with a larger price tag. Such a large variety and number of these tomato ceramics were made at the time, many survived, and they are fairly easy to find today.
Just looking at these rosy red tomatoes makes me smile. The color is cheerful and bright. The shape of the tomatoes is something that everyone can identify. And even though they are intended to be a biscuit jar, teapot or mustard/jam pot these pieces add a bright decorative punch to any decor. The variety of shapes is astounding. Watch for the green leaf under-plates or saucers; they often get separated from the original covered tomato jam jar, mustard pot or sauce dish. There were also green leaf plates made to add more color to your table. One of my favorite pieces is this beautiful tomato wall pocket. Just imagine it with an air-fern or a small bunch of baby’s breath.
These tomato pieces were manufactured in the thousands and many pieces survived till today to brighten your kitchen. Think about searching out some tomato ceramics for your home and bring a ray of summer sunshine into your life.