What are they?
Tomatoes, lycopersicon lycopersicum (or ‘wolf peach’ to the non-Latin speakers), are a member of the Solanaceae, better known as the nightshade, family. Botanically speaking, they are berries, and therefore a fruit rather than a vegetable. Originating in Mexico and Central America, it is thought that they were known as xitomatl, meaning ‘plump thing with a navel’ – an apt description! From this, the Spanish conquistadors derived tomat, and we Anglicized to tomato. The Italians know them as pomodoro; apple of gold.
There are many varities of tomatoes, some sources suggest as many as 25,000! As we don’t have space for quite that many, we’re growing a small selection of heavy croppers, including yellow and red varieties, a striped tom and one rather suitably named oxheart.
What to do with them?
They are of course delicious as they are, and add a lovely pop of colour to salad. A natural accompanyment to Mediteranean dishes, try your toms in risotto, with pasta or on a pizza. Roasting or stewing adds hearty depths to their flavour. For those of you with a meat box delivery, tomatoes complement pork and chicken. And who doesn’t love a big bowl of tomato soup on a rainy afternoon?
Bloody Mary anyone?
When are they in season?
They can be grown all year round in heated glasshouses, but you’ll get them at their best in summer, when they are ripened by the elusive phenomena known as sunshine.