If there is one item of produce that speaks of the glories of late summer, it is the not-so-humble tomato. Time was, you couldn’t get an out of season tomato for love nor money, so there was little point in eating anything other than the real deal. Now you can get a passable tomato all-year round, but there is still a certain magic that only lingers when the sun is shining and the living is easy.
Eating food at the height of season can mean one of two things. Either you grow your own, or there is an inexpensive abundance available. Any which way that you look at it, you will want to make the most of nature’s bounty. But what to do with all these tomatoes?
The best way to enjoy an en point tomato, is to eat it whole (like an apple for instance), with a sprinkle of Maldon salt on every bite. If you are far too delicate for such a thing, then slice or quarter it, sprinkle with salt, and eat with a fork. It won’t be as good mind you; hands were designed for carrying food to your mouth.
Just a little step up from the sea salt variety, a little salad dressing will pop those flavours even further. Sea salt, a splash of red wine vinegar, and a splash of olive oil is all it needs. From there, add buffalo mozzarella, a finely sliced onion, or a handful of olives. Or not. However far you take you take it, a tomato salad is the perfect side dish for summer.
We must not forget the joy that is a tomato sandwich. Soft white bread, but brown is a possibility too. A slick of good butter, juicy tomato, and a sprinkle of salt. Solitary bliss.
Tomato sauce for pasta, or a good parmigiana, is usually better with the full depth of tinned tomatoes, but there is definitely a place for the subtler tones of a sauce made with fresh tomato.
Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, with a whole clove of garlic, to a small pan. Heat gently for a few minutes before removing the garlic. Skin, deseed, and finely chop, 3 medium tomatoes and add to the pan. An addition of herbs will add a little fragrance. Freshly torn basil is great, or a few leaves of thyme. Season with salt, and cook for a few minutes until the tomato softens. Serve hot with spaghetti, and perhaps a garnish of toasted breadcrumbs. You could add a chopped anchovy whilst cooking, instead of the salt.
To remove the skin from a tomato, cut a cross at the stalk end and drop into boiling water for several minutes. Remove the tomato from the water and the skin will slip off easily. Cut into quarters, cut out the seeded core, and chop the flesh that is left.
A decent sun-blushed tomato is quite hard to come by, not to mention expensive, but if you make your own they are guaranteed delicious and won’t break the bank. They will not keep for long in the fridge though, so do not make too many.
Pre heat the oven to Gas Mark ¼/75C. Place quartered tomatoes on a baking tray, sprinkle with sea salt, a sprig of thyme, and a little olive oil. Bake for around 6 hours. Leave to cool and keep covered in the fridge for no more than 3 days.
Using up a glut of tomatoes is one of the great food rituals of summer, whether you have grown your own or not. Pasta sauce and chutney are the usual suspects and are far easier to get right than jam. I will look at preserving in greater detail later in the summer as it warrants more information than I have room for here.
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