You are probably, like me, in the middle of a tomato glut. Why do tomatoes all become ripe at the same time? And, also, what about the ones which never turn red? All the hard work of growing, looking after and nurturing them to end up with almost too many of the little red bombs! What can you do with them once you’ve made gallons of soup and tomato sauce for the freezer, eaten them fresh, fried and baked and given away pounds (very useful for bartering, though, for things you might not have grown)?
The flavour depends largely upon the variety and how the fruit has been grown and ripened: some cheap imported tomatoes are grown under polytunnels, picked under-ripe, then artificially ripened with ethylene gas, a plant hormone. Sun-warmed tomatoes picked straight from the vine are arguably the ideal way to enjoy tomatoes.
When choosing tomatoes, pick them up, feel them and smell them. Choose tomatoes that feel heavy for their size; they are more likely to be bursting with juices. Tomatoes with no smell will probably have no flavour, so opt for those with a pleasant aroma (although the aroma released by tomatoes on the vine are usually due more to the vine than the tomatoes themselves).
My husband makes a spicy special salsa with tomatoes and a secret ingredient he keeps very close to his heart so I’m afraid I can’t give you that recipe but I hope you will try below for something a little different – and one for all those toms who simply refuse to turn colour!
Tomato and plum might sound like a questionable salad combination to some, but just give this recipe a try and I think you’ll be convinced. Totally tasty and perfect – and possibly also using up the other glut of the month – plums!
Tomato and Plum Salad
- 400g tomatoes, cut into wedges
- 2 red plums cut into wedges
- Finely grated zest of 1/2 a lemon
- 1 tsp red wine vinegar
- 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 tsp sumac (a citrusy Middle Eastern Spice)
- 1/4 bunch tarragon, leaves picked, torn
Combine tomatoes, plums, lemon zest and salt flakes to taste in a bowl and set aside for 5 minutes to marinate. Add vinegar, oil, sumac and three-quarters tarragon. Toss until well combined. Spread salad across a serving platter, scatter with remaining tarragon and serve immediately.
This sweet Tomato Jam is given a nice kick by the addition of ginger.
- 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
- 2 tablespoons grated ginger
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup (125ml) red wine vinegar
- 1/2 firmly packed (100g) brown sugar
- 1 small red chilli, finely chopped
- 450g chopped tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon honey
Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the ginger and onion, and cook for 2-3 minutes until the onion is soft. Add the vinegar, brown sugar and chilli, and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes until sugar dissolves. Stir in the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30-35 minutes until thick. Stir in the honey and cool to room temperature.
This last recipe is for the ubiquitous green tomatoes – but is so good that if I were you I wouldn’t wait for the end of the season but just use them when you have them, even if early on! Slice them thickly, dip into beaten egg, fine polenta and fry in rapeseed oil till crisp. The insides soften and have a delicious stab of sharpness to them and benefit further from a bowl of garlicky mayonnaise on the side. If you haven’t got polenta, you can use flour, breadcrumbs or a thin tempura like batter instead.
Fried green tomatoes with garlic mayonnaise
There is something quite perfect about the green-apple tang of an unripe tomato with the warm, mealy notes of crisp polenta. This recipe is good with any under-ripe tomatoes. Just squirt a little lemon juice on each one as you slice. Serves two.
4 medium to large green tomatoes
a little milk
90g plain flour
3 tablespoons fine ground polenta (cornmeal)
2 sprigs thyme
oil for frying
Slice the tomatoes thickly, about three or four from each fruit. Break the eggs into a small, shallow bowl and beat them lightly. Stir in a tablespoon or two of milk. Mix the flour and ground polenta, season with salt and black pepper and the leaves pulled from the thyme branches. Tip onto a large shallow plate. Press a slice of tomato into the flour and polenta mixture then into the beaten egg then back into the polenta again. Shake off any excess. Don’t worry if bits of tomato show through here and there, you want a light, crisp coat, not armour-plating. Repeat with the remaining tomatoes. Warm the oil in a frying pan. Lower some the tomatoes into the pan, one at a time – otherwise they will stick together- then let them colour lightly on both sides. I turn mine after a minute or two. Cornmeal burns quickly, so I keep a watchful eye on the tomatoes as they cook. They should be ready in four or five minutes.
Remove from the pan and drain on kitchen paper. Serve with garlic mayonnaise.
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 egg yolks
a clove of garlic
100mls sunflower oil
4 tablespoons olive oil
Put the lemon juice, the mustard and the egg yolks in a mixing bowl and stir to mix with a small whisk. Peel and crush the garlic, stir into the egg yolks then season lightly with salt and little fine black pepper. Slowly add the sunflower oil, beating continuously. Lastly beat in the olive oil.