Finally. The growing season got off to a late start this year, but native tomatoes, including heirlooms, are making their appearance at farmers' markets and roadside stands. When tomatoes are ripened on the vine and just picked, the flavor doesn't get much better.

When the fruit tastes this good, the simpler, the better is the best preparation guide. Thickly sliced in a sandwich or chunked in a salad, locally-grown tomatoes need only a sprinkle of salt to enhance the flavor.

Home cooks have their favorite ways to savor summer's tomatoes. One classic soup preparation, Gazpacho, is both cool and refreshing — and requires no cooking. Juicy, ripe tomatoes work best in this recipe, which whips up in seconds in a blender.

BLENDER GAZPACHO

>>3 ripe tomatoes, cut in half

>>2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks

>>1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves

>>1 green pepper, seeded and chopped

>>1 scallion, cut into pieces

>>1/2 cup red wine vinegar

>>3/4 cup good quality olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Hot sauce, optional

Place all the ingredients into a blender and turn on high. Blend until mixture is smooth. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. Pour into chilled bowls. Garnish, if desired, with croutons, chopped cilantro or a spoonful of sour cream. Serves 4.