OK, so we love tomatoes...and we don't care who knows it! Tomatoes are one of the most versatile fruits (more on that later) out there - there is a plethora of choice out there, each as unique as the next one. So where do we even start?
Tomatoes originated in western South America, crossed the Atlantic to Spain with the conquistadors in the 16th century, but only finally caught on in northern Europe in the 19th century. A member of the nightshade family (along with aubergines, peppers and chillies), tomatoes are in fact a fruit, but their affinity for other savoury ingredients means that they are usually classed as a vegetable.
The best news?
Tomatoes are available all year round with a constantly changing line up of varieties from season to season. The British tomato season runs from June to October. In winter, you could use more of canned tomatoes to save on food miles (the environmental cost of food transportation).
So many to choose from, but where to start?
This list is by no means exhaustive but we've got to start somewhere haven't we? So why not start with the most popular:
Beefsteak: these are the biggest tomatoes, and have a meaty texture with a sweet, mellow flavour. They are good for salads, grilling or stuffing.
Salad (or round): this is the traditional British tomato - it's a good all rounder, but really needs to be ripe to get the best flavour.
Cherry: small and very sweet, cherry tomatoes are pricier than salad tomatoes but their intense flavour is worth the extra moola. They are good in salads, pasta sauces or roasted.
Plum: Available as a baby or full-grown tomato, plum tomatoes have an oval shape, with a rich flavour and comparatively few seeds. Good for making sauces and stews.
Green: there are two types of green tomato. One is unripe, and is quite tart but good for chutneys, or fried. The other is a variety that stays green when ripe, has a tangy flavour and is good in salads or, again, fried.
Yellow: these ripen to a golden yellow colour, and are good in salads, salsas and chutneys.
Now it's time to make something delicious
If you're not a fan of the tomato by now then there's really no helping you. If, however, your mouth is salivating....then we have the most epic tomato chutney recipe from Cully and Sully. Perfect to give as a Christmas gift...or just to sit at home and eat all to yourself.
- 2kg of fresh, ripe tomatoes, cut in half
- 1 red pepper, halved
- 4-5 fresh ripe red chillies, halved and de seeded
- 4-5 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 1 onion, peeled and quartered
- A few fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano etc)
- Olive oil
- 150g sultanas
- Approx 250g cox, braeburn or other good eating apple, peeled and chopped
- Approx 250g cooking apples, peeled and chopped
- Approx 500ml cider vinegar
- Approx 350g brown sugar
- Bay leaf
- Lemon juice
- Stew the apples in a large pot with the sultanas, sugar and vinegar.
- Add a bay leaf and a stick of cinnamon.
- The key to this fantastic chutney is the way the tomatoes are cooked.
- Fresh tomatoes from the glasshouse are roasted in a hot oven for 20mins along with the onion, peppers, chillies and garlic and some fresh herbs on the stalks all with a drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice.
- Once roasted, remove the onions, peppers and chillies.
- Discard the herbs.
- Chop the peppers (skin first), onion and chillies and add to the stewed apples.
- Get a pair of scissors and cut up the roasted tomatoes in the same roasting tray.
- This is essential as it means you don't lose any of the fantastic juices!
- Add this to the same pot.
- Simmer gently for another while to let the flavours combine and reduce the liquid down to the right consistency.
- This is a rustic chutney and quite chunky! Season and adjust vinegar/sugar as required.
- This recipe can also be made with green tomatoes, just omit the red pepper and use green jalapeño peppers instead of red chillies.
- The resulting chutney will also be a less sweet.