A real tomato has struggled for life in the sunshine. The plant, believing it is dying, puts all its energy into its fruit, filling it with nutrients from the earth. Consequently a perfect tomato is a late summer and autumnal fruit. It will have a rich perfume when you lift it to your nose. It is a world apart from the insipid tomatoes that have been cross-bred to travel in trucks and sit on supermarket shelves year-round.
With the fabulous array of heirloom varieties (the original, non-hybrid cultivars of tomato such as the stripy tigrella or the fat, knobbly ox-heart) now available in grocery stores and farmers’ market, a tomato can easily become the centrepiece of a summer feast.
A classic caprese salad is only worth attempting with the freshest in-season tomatoes, while Pete Evans’s chilli crab with cherry tomatoes would be a fabulous centrepiece for any summer meal. A simple rack of lamb with tomatoes, olives and Spanish onions is an easy weeknight dinner, or for the vegetarians among us, the haloumi and olive salad makes a wonderful hearty meal.
Although tomatoes are closely associated with Italian cuisine, they are actually originally native of South America. They are best stored at room temperature.
How do you peel and deseed a tomato?
Tomatoes to be cooked are often peeled (to avoid annoying “rolls” of tomato skin in the sauce) and de-seeded (as the seeds are bitter). In order to peel and de-seed a tomato, score a small cross in the base of the tomato with your knife; plunge in boiling water for 1 minute, refresh under cold water (running water seems to make peeling easier too); cut in half and scoop out seeds with a dessert spoon.