Tomatoes

Tomatoes

By
Anna Bergenström, Fanny Bergenström
Contains
20 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781742702070
Photographer
Fanny Bergenström

Tomatoes ripening in the sun

In the wintertime in Scandinavia, it is easy to forget what ‘real’ tomatoes can taste like: the ones that have ripened in the sun and have a rather sensual scent and that indefinably strong yet sweet flavour, with a perfect balance between sweetness and slight acidity. Such tomatoes often have a supple, elastic skin that practically bursts when you bite into it – a far cry from the sad tomatoes that are grown under fluorescent tubes and sold in supermarkets. When buying tomatoes off-season, we personally feel that small organic ones on the vine are the tastiest choice. They may be a bit on the expensive side, but you only need a few to enliven a salad or snack. In the countries around the Mediterranean, fabulous tomatoes grow all year round: large, uneven, exciting varieties, often with many ‘chambers’ and an extraordinary aroma. No wonder tomatoes are so fundamental to Mediterranean cooking.

But when tomatoes are in full season, you often find wonderful varieties from local growers at home as well. This is the time to indulge in tomatoes with that genuine flavour; not to mention the pride of picking tomatoes that you have grown yourself. Each year we have a few tall vines growing against a south-facing wall, which yield enormous quantities of lovely, fairly small tomatoes. We harvest them all the way into October, and then end up nipping off the plants that are still full of green tomatoes. We tie the plants with raffia and hang them upside down in the kitchen window, and the tomatoes continue to ripen little by little for yet another month or so.

A golden apple: un pomo d’oro

Botanically speaking, the tomato is actually a berry, belonging to the same plant family as potatoes and eggplants. It is said to originate from Peru and Ecuador, where it still grows wild. Yet it was the Mexican Aztecs who, in the early 16th century, gave tomato seeds as a gift to the Spaniards, who in turn introduced the tomato to Europe. However, the Europeans regarded it with scepticism, and for a long time many believed that it was poisonous. For a while it was thought to be an aphrodisiac and was sometimes called the ‘apple of love’ or ‘apple of gold’ (pomo d’oro). There is an Italian cookbook from Naples dated 1755 that contains a recipe for ‘Spanish’ tomato sauce: a sauce that is now considered the most Italian thing there is...

Nowadays, there are hundreds of different tomato varieties: red ones, of course, but also pink, yellow, orange, brownish black, striped and green ones. Enjoy making colourful tomato salads and salsas, or slowly roast the tomatoes in the oven. Roasting or cooking tomatoes helps to release lycopene, an essential antioxidant.

Don’t store tomatoes in the fridge, as they lose their flavour pretty much immediately if stored at cold temperatures. Really ripe tomatoes only last a few days at room temperature, seldom more. When we happen to have too many ripe tomatoes at home, we often prepare a delicious tomato sauce and freeze it – lovely to serve on steaming hot pasta or in a lasagne when you don’t have the time to cook a dinner from scratch.

Good tomatoes make their own salad. When tomatoes are full of sun and flavour, they really don’t need any accompaniments. Just slice them, fairly thickly, and sprinkle with a bit of tasty sea salt. Let them stand and soak up the salt for roughly half an hour or so. Drizzle with a fruity olive oil and perhaps a few drops of balsamic or red wine vinegar. That’s all. Or top the tomato salad at the last minute with a handful of crunchy garlic croutons and some basil leaves; or simply with chopped flat-leaf parsley and freshly ground black pepper, or a few tender rocket leaves.

Featured Recipes in this Chapter

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