“Ain’t nothin’ in the world that I like better
Than bacon and lettuce and homegrown tomatoes
Up in the mornin’, out in the garden
Get you a ripe one don’t get a hard one
Plant ‘em in the spring, eat ‘em in the summer
All winter without ‘em’s a culinary bummer
I forget all about the sweatin’ and diggin’
Everytime I go out and pick me a big ‘un”
– Guy Clark
There are dozens of tributes but to put it simply yes, there’s nothing to beat a ripe red homegrown tomato straight off the vine.
While there has been a revolution in the last few years in terms of the tomatoes we see in supermarkets, often they have been sitting in storage for a few days to weeks. And while they may (and sometimes depending on where you buy them they may be delicious), there is nothing better than getting a whiff of a fresh tomato on the vine, the deep earthy taste that carries through when you take a bite, be it from a ripe cherry tomato to a roma tomato to a romanita to a beefsteak to a strip tiger tomato to a plum.
That in fact is just the tip of the iceberg, because worldwide there are about 25 000 different tomatoes and in South Africa more than 200 different varieties.
In the last year from the beginning of spring to the end of summer, I have had tomatoes that have just seeded themselves, producing mainly medium sized tomatoes which I cannot identify in terms of their varietal. They are about the size of an apricot and have quite deep ridges reaching out from their stems.
This year a vine popped up in the midst of a patch of plectranthus that surrounds an olive tree. I pruned down the plectranthus and put up a support for the tomatoes and have already plucked quite a number -which I remove just when they turn red.
There are dozens of things you can do with the tomatoes and arguably the best is to simply cut them in halves or wedges, drizzle over some olive oil, some freshly ground sea salt and pepper and eat with crusty bread.
I was also delighted to find purple basil which seeded itself in a pot of succulents which makes the perfect mate for tomatoes –
I made a simple dish on the weekend for a light lunch – a roasted tomato, sweetcorn and haloumi frittata.
Ingredients (for two people)
4 large free-range eggs
1 cup cooked and husked sweetcorn
100g haloumi cut into 1/2cm thick slices across the width of the cheese block
1 cup romanita or medium-sized ripe tomatoes
1/2 cup milk or cream
olive oil and butter
Remove the skins of the tomatoes by plunging them in boiling water for a few minutes, pricking them and then gently pulling off the skins. Cut each tomato in half lengthwise and roast briefly in a high oven with a glug of olive oil and some fresh herbs until they become soft.
Fry the haloumi slices in a medium pan or stove top flat ceramic dish and remove from the pan, setting aside.
Beat the eggs with the milk and mix in with the sweetcorn and a few leaves of torn basil.
Using the same pan that you fired the haloumi, add a dab or two of butter and pour in the egg mixture, gently placing the tomatoes, open side up in the pan.
Cook the egg mixture just until it starts to set and then place in a medium oven to finish up. Magic will happen in the oven as the mixture will start to puff up.
Remove from the oven, scatter the haloumi over the top and serve with a crusty bread.