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Culinaria: What’s so good about fresh fruity tomatoes?

The first tomatoes to arrive in Europe in the early 1500s were from Mexico and were most likely yellow. In Italy, they were initially used in the garden for decoration.

Because of the plant’s ability to mutate into different sizes and colours, it was prized in the flowerbeds of the wealthy. It was the peasants who took to eating them, making wonderful soups and sauces that are now typically Italian.

The pale red variety that we encounter everywhere now is a result of attempts to grow tomatoes that are uniformly red. As a result of wanting a regular-shaped and evenly ripened tomato, we have produced something with little sugar and no taste. We seem to unconsciously consume these fruits without ever wondering why we do so.

Tomatoes come in all shapes and sizes and there are many tomato growers in Ireland that focus on heritage or heirloom varieties. These may not be uniformly shaped or evenly ripened but they do taste of a tomato, which is more than I can say for the rest of them. Perhaps we could take a stand against these pale little fellas and just stop buying them.

Furthermore, tomatoes in Ireland have a short season so don’t expect to find them outside of the late summer and early autumn.

Tomatoes are best kept outside the fridge as the cold stunts their ability to give you their best. Allow them to continue to ripen in a bowl on your kitchen table.

New season tomatoes require little cooking. I like to get a handful of red, yellow, white and green tomatoes and slice them horizontally though the middle. Place them in a bowl and season with some sea salt and a good dash of a nice extra virgin oil. Pick some purple and green basil and scatter the leaves over and through the tomatoes. To finish, take a nice vinegar and drizzle over the tomatoes. Eat immediately. JP McMahon