I LOVE summer tomatoes. When they're in season hardly a day passes without my slicing them up for breakfast or dinner to eat with a sprinkling of salt and fresh basil, maybe some prosciutto on the side.

Unfortunately, these sweet, juicy vegetables that drop to the earth during July and August are merely a tease. Just when there seems to be enough to last the next 30 years, the open air markets close down, the farmers go home and the tomatoes disappear from sight. Another full eight months before we see them again.

It was last November, in Dallas, while raiding my mother-in-law's refrigerator -- not even considering the demise of the summer tomato -- that we found a pint jar of what appeared to be very red tomatoes.

Surely, even Texas cannot avoid those colorless, waxy, tasteless tomato renditions you find wrapped in cellophane at the local grocery store in the winter, we thought.

Curious, we opened the jar, stuck in the largest spoon we could find and tasted the contents. The flavor of real tomatoes exploded in our greedy mouths and we could picture the fruit: red, round, bursting with the sweet natural juices of summer.

The pleasant surprise of summer tomatoes was followed with a lively smattering of jalapeno peppers, onions, garlic and green pepper. The end result was sensational -- not too hot, not too cool, certainly not enough. We pulled up a chair, pulled out a bowl and emptied the jar.

ROSEMARY HYLDEN'S TOMATO RELISH (To be eaten with a spoon) (Makes 6 pints)

12 cups skinned, seeded ripe tomatoes, cut into 1/8-inch pieces

6 large white onions, diced

1/2 cup diced jalapeno peppers (seeds included)*

5 cloves garlic, chopped

2 cups chopped green peppers

3 teaspoons salt

1/4 cup sugar

1 cup cider vinegar

Put all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn heat down and simmer 30 minutes. Spoon into sterilized jars, seal and cool to room temperature. Keeps 3 to 4 months refrigerated.

*Note: This relish is very hot. To tone it down, remove seeds from jalapenos.