The Year of the Tomato

photoAs far as I’m concerned, tomatoes are an autumn fruit in this country. I know there are those masters of nature who manage to produce their own magnificent crops in time for summer, but I’m not among them. My tomatoes always begin to ripen about halfway through September. Thanks to the genial nature of autumn this year, they’re still coming thick and fast. No green tomato chutney for me this year.

As with all my veg, I’m mix old favourites with new varieties in the constant search for a better flavoured tomato. Of course, when I say better flavoured, it rather depends on what flavour you’re looking for. In my various jeremiads against the words ‘heirloom’ and ‘heritage’, I have pointed out their general uselessness. They’re lazy menu marketing-speak because they tell you nothing about the qualities of the foods they’re used to qualitfy.

The fact is that different varieties of tomatoes have very different thicknesses of skin, levels of acidity, levels of sweetness, ratio of flash to jelly surrounding the seeds, juiciness and flavour. Some are good for frying or grilling, others are better in salads, some are destined for sauce.

I don’t run a full agricultural experimental station, just small front garden, and my gardening technique is very basic, marked more by benign neglect than knowledgeable intervention. That said, I’m pretty chuffed with this year’s various crops, and of my tomatoes in particular. Those appearing in the photo at the top of this blog are John Baer (top left), Costelluto Genovese (bottom left); Sungold (centre); Brandywine (top right); Marmande (bottom right)

John Baer ((my current favourite tomato)
Raw: medium skinned; firm and fleshy; beautiful sweetness/acidity ratio fruity; elegant; long
Fried: loses some sweetness and elegance; gains a meaty note meaty.
Uses: salads & bruschetta

Costelluto Genovese
Raw: thick skinned; not very fleshy; sharp, clean; meaty
Fried: sharp; short
Uses: salads, bruschetta, fried with bacon

Raw: thick skinned; medium fleshy; tangy, juicy, mild
Fried: intensifies flavour and sweetness; holds its textur
Uses: frying and sauces

Super Marmande
Raw: medium skinned; fleshy; woolly, tasteless
Fried: soft, sweet, full
Uses: frying and sauces

Raw: small, thickish skinned; sweet, explosive, brilliant frui.t
Cooked: sweet, acid, fruity
Uses: eat on their own like sweets; salads.

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