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Tomatoes – the end of Summer


It is amazing how quickly the season’s change. Last month, we were bathed in sunshine, in fact just last week we were still enjoying dry bright days. But as I write this, it is half past four on a Tuesday afternoon, and it is dark enough to need all the lights on. It feels damp and cool. It is autumn.

This morning I decided it was time to strip the tomato plants. There isn’t enough light or warmth in the garden to bring them on any further, and they need the warmth of the kitchen now.

Big Brutes of Italian Costoluto Genovese tomatoes

I have been cropping the big Italian tomatoes over the last month and I really like the flavour of these best in a pale orange state, the insides are really crisp yet sweet, and I think this is the right stage for a salad. Once they are true red they are softer and would probably make wonderful tomato sauce, but I don’t really have enough for that, and I prefer them quite plainly sliced, with a little bit of red onion and some balsamic vinegar to make a tasty side dish.

The little cherries are a mixed bunch, this particular variety seems rather prone to splitting (the Italians didn’t split at all, just mutated into giant scrunchies) even though I tried to keep the watering even.

Trusses of Cherry Tomatoes

The trusses are very long, and ripen from closest to the main stem, so I have been picking these off as they ripen, the perfect ones to eat like sweets from a bowl on the worktop whilst I am cooking.

The split ones are trickier, as they won’t keep, and will go mouldy along the split if they aren’t used up quickly, but they do work really well semi-dried scattered over a salad – I use an adaptation of a recipe from Alastair Little’s Italian Kitchen

Semi-dried cherry tomatoes

Cut the tomatoes in half and put cut side up in a roasting tin, scatter with salt and pepper and a spritz of olive oil.

Cook in a very low oven (Gas mark 1 ) for about an hour and a half, until shrivelled slightly but still juicy.

Either use straight away or keep in the fridge for a couple of days under a layer of olive oil.

As you can see, there are a lot of green tomatoes here – some will ripen up in the kitchen, I’ll make the rest into green tomato chutney, and I fancy a try at green tomato chili jelly.