Where in Europe are tomatoes the ripest, the reddest, the most flavoursome at the moment? Italy or Spain? The south of France perhaps? Wrong: this year the loveliest tomatoes grow in the UK, and they are even the better for being relatively local so they don’t have to be picked unripe lest they go rotten on a long journey.
The sunshine bestowed on the British Isles this year might seriously interfere with our sleep comfort but it’s a blessing for the Isle of Wight or Norfolk tomato growers.
Like all fruit (Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad), it’s at its best when picked ripe and consumed directly. So indeed, the Spanish or Italian tomatoes just off the vine sold in the greengrocer's in a neighbouring village will be incredible. But for export, they need to be picked when not so incredibly ripe. Thus, considering the travel and storage factors affecting when they should be picked, local ones will trump them.
Homegrown tomatoes are even better. Warm from the sun, the fragrance from the leaves magnifying their own, this year the amateur garden growers are the winners.
And if there’s plenty, enjoy them every day!
A proper bumper crop should be turned into jars of tomato sauce, tubs of confit tomatoes in olive oil, or this fantastic condiment called tomato butter.
On a daily basis we can use them in pappardelle with fresh tomatoes, prawns with stewed tomatoes and in a tomato Tatin: the easy one with puff pastry or the really extraordinary one with pastry made from scratch.
We can stuff large tomatoes with cheese and breadcrumbs and bake them. Or, if they are too lovely to bake, make tomato nuns: with cheese-and-pesto filling.
Try tomato and fig salad, the unexpectedly great combination. Or serve them with creamed sweetcorn, another brilliant pairing.
Cook them with green beans or with cabbage and bacon. And don’t forget ratatouille! Happy tomatoing!