August 19, 2015
There are more than 400 varieties of tomato with the flavour differing by variety, by the growing method, the weather conditions and also by the way they are handled and stored.
Those tomatoes that are suitable for growing both inside and outside will produce a bigger, earlier crop when grown under glass but the flavour will be more intense if grown more slowly outside.
Allowing tomatoes to ripen on the vine will produce more depth of flavour with the exception of cherry tomatoes which are best picked just before they are fully ripe as otherwise they tend to crack.
For tips and tricks on improving the flavour of tomatoes take a look at James Wong’s latest book, Grow for Flavour. One of his many evidence based tips involves spraying tomato plants with a dilute solution of aspirin, and it really works!
When it comes to storing your tomatoes please step away from the fridge. Tomatoes are best stored at room temperature, out of direct sunlight. Some people swear by keeping them in a paper bag, others just pop them in a bowl, the key thing is to keep them cool but not fridge cool.
Home-grown tomatoes will keep for about 5 days after picking but will then start to go downhill. So, if you have a glut you may need to look at a variety of storage methods.
The easiest way to store tomatoes is to freeze them whole. Simply place them on a tray and freeze, then seal them together in a bag and pop back in the freezer. These will be perfect dropped in stews or turned into soup or sauce and won’t need to be defrosted first. If you prefer then you can always peel, chop or slice them prior to freezing.
Other ways to store your fruits involve cooking them. Tomato soup can be frozen and home-made ketchup is delicious and lasts for months if the bottles are properly sterilised first. Tomato sauce or passata can be stored in sterilised jars for future pizza, bruschetta or pasta meals or can be frozen in bags or tubs.
If we have the weather then have a go at sun-drying your tomatoes although it will take quite some time to achieve the dry, leathery feel that is needed. In a not-so-good, i.e. normal, summer you can always dry your crop in the oven. Cut about 16 tomatoes in half and using a small knife or teaspoon remove the flesh and seeds. Drizzle about 2 tablespoons of olive oil on a couple of baking trays and place the tomatoes on them, cut side up. Drizzle another 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the tomatoes and sprinkle with some sea salt and a tablespoon of sugar. Then cook in a warm oven for about 45 minutes, cool and store in sterilised jars topped up with olive oil.
Once autumn has arrived and the temperature has dropped any green tomatoes will remain just that, green. You can cut the vine and hang it in a dark place and the tomatoes will ripen or you can turn them into delicious chutney for enjoying with cheese.
Is it any wonder that tomatoes are one of the most popular vegetables to grow? Few others, if any, have the same versatility and breadth of uses or store so well.