The most successful vegetable from my garden is tomatoes!
Every time a tomato does not look as fresh as I would like it, I toss it into the garden. It either adds welcome organic matter to feed the soil or the seeds come up the following year. The cherry or cocktail varieties are most prolific self seeders!
I know that there is a method of drying and rinsing the seeds before you plant them, but this method will only be reserved for very special tomatoes. I also bring the odd packet on seeds, purchased on my travels, but have not been successful in getting those to germinate.
I do buy plants when I find unusual or good fruit bearing varieties, especially the ‘heritage’ varieties like ox heart or ‘beef steak’ tomato.
When I harvest the tomatoes the real tomato fragrance reminds me of the days when I helped my late Mother in her fabulous veggie garden. How I wish I had photos of it! Store bought tomatoes simply cannot measure up when it come to the flavour of a vine ripened home grown tomato.
The trick is to allow the fruit to ripen fully on the vine.
When I have a mass of little tomatoes I usually turn them into a sauce (recipe here) or chilli jam (recipe here), but the larger tomatoes I love in a salad or a simple dish where one is able to savour the delicate flavours.
Olive oil, garlic, parsley and basil are amazing together. The French and Italians have taught us this!
In rural France, especially in Provence, there are two of my favourite tomato dishes.
If you search for Tomatoes Provencale you will find many recipes and both these styles!
The most popular recipe is Stuffed Tomatoes. Here whole tomatoes have their ‘lids’ cut off and the juicy filling removed and replaced with a mixture of breadcrumbs , garlic and ‘herbs de Provence’ (a mixture of dried basil, fennel, marjoram, parsley, rosemary, tarragon and thyme). The trick is add a good dollop of olive oil and then to slow roast the tomatoes until they are soft and slightly caramelized and the stuffing has a crisp brown crust. This is either done in the oven or in a heavy cast iron pot on the stove top.
The second dish is my favourite: pan fried tomatoes with lashings of garlic, olive oil, parsley and basil!
It is delicious just served with crusty bread as a starter, but also a fine accompaniment to grilled or roasted meats.
It may take a few minutes to prepare and a dirty frying pan to wash, but it is worth the effort!
Both these recipe are a fabulous replacement for a tomato salad at a barbeque. They can be cooked in a cast iron pan on the coals. The stuffed tomatoes, requiring a pan with a lid.