It’s been a couple of years now since I visited Isle of Wight Tomatoes, and I was really pleased that we had the chance to go back and film again. A few things have changed since my last visit. The global pandemic and certain difficulties in the overseas markets. Whether that’s because of Brexit or unsettled weather conditions in Spain, Portugal and Morocco, who knows? But rest assured, the British tomato season is well underway.
It was great to see Brian, who oversees this fantastic operation, on top form and pushing ahead with amazing new varieties of tomatoes. He informs me that they trial up to 100 new varieties every year. This in itself staggers me. But what surprises me even more, is that out of those 100 new plants, only one or two will make it to production. This is down to whether the plant works and whether the client likes the end result. A huge amount of work, up to three years in some cases, must be put in place before a new trial plant could end up on supermarket shelves. In addition, many taste panels give vital feedback on such things as flavour, sweetness, the thickness of the skin, good cropping, and disease resistance, all before getting signed off.
Top Secret Tommies
We see a wide range of new varieties, including some relatively secret types we cannot show on camera. The array of colours, shapes and flavours was a joy to see. I could barely wait to cook a couple of recipes using these wonderful fruits.
Respect Your Ingredients
I say this fairly often, and so at the risk of repeating myself, when you have produce as good as this, the less you play around with it, the better. Less is undoubtedly more, whether it’s tomatoes, asparagus, first Jersey Royal potatoes, the first sea trout, or the first partridge. They all need careful thought on how to cook. Some tomatoes may not need cooking; you can use them raw or gently warm them to get the best results. A glug of olive oil, a few chopped shallots and a sprinkling of salt may be all you need.
In the end, I opted for a guacamole style dressing, yes, dressing that we would fold through probably 6 or 8 varieties of warm, perfectly ripe, sliced tomatoes, plenty of fresh coriander, lime juice and perfectly ripe avocados to finish off.
The second dish is, halved tomatoes tossed with sherry vinegar, olive oil, ground coriander and honey. The tomatoes were gently warmed in a sauté pan, then flipped, cooled slightly and topped with thick yoghurt, sea salt, lemon zest and chopped parsley. So simple but straight to the point.