You certainly can’t complain you don’t know what you’re getting when you buy this book – it does exactly what it says on the cover. The pleasures of choosing, growing and cooking the little red devils is what this book is all about.
As an allotmenteer I’m well used to growing tomatoes but even so I never realised just how many varieties there were, sticking as I do to a half-dozen favourites. First referred to in 1544 as ‘golden apples’ and regarded with suspicion due to their relationship to deadly nightshade, tomatoes now come in over five thousand shapes and sizes meaning we can all find ones that suit our taste in the pot, and which will grow well in our particular location. In fact if you have any spot where you can grow tomatoes, even a hanging basket can be used, it’s well worth it. Nothing beats the taste of a sun-warm tomato plucked and eaten in one quick movement. Surplus tomatoes can be dried, preserved in jars or frozen and so nothing goes to waste.
The book explains the types well from Ailsa Craig to Black Pineapple and lists seed supplers. Some varieties you can leave alone whilst others need ruthless removal of side shoots at all stages to get that tower of tomatoes you see so often abroad. First though you need to pick your variety and the book explains this clearly with a visual directory of 160 types and what they are good for – eating fresh, sauces, freezing, salsas etc – and what kind of flavour you can expect. After that comes a guide to sowing, potting and planting on with plenty of good practical advice to make sure that whether your toms are in a greenhouse, a growbag, a windows sill or a field they all come on beautifully.
Then comes the cooking. Don’t tuck your toms in the fridge, it dulls the flavour and after all that love and nurturing you don’t want that. Instead peel, blanch and deseed with handy tips to do all three and try any of the thirty-five recipes here. A tomato, peach and strawberry salad shows why the tomato is technically a fruit and with classics such as roasted tomato and garlic soup, sofrito and caponata you’re going to wonder why you ever bought those nasty watery hard tomatoes from the supermarket.
The tomato doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves but growing your own is great fun, surprisingly easy and a real sense of satisfaction when you tumble freshly -picked handfuls onto the kitchen table. This book is just what you need so start sowing.