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The Forager

Fresh at the markets: Tomatoes

The Forager

The season for garden grown tomatoes is now drawing to a close, but the markets still have growers offering large saucing tomatoes, that are perfect for autumn dishes.

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The tomato is the edible, often red berry-type fruit of the nightshade plant called Solanum lycopersicum, commonly known as a tomato plant. Although botanically and scientifically a fruit, they are generally considered a vegetable because of their savoury flavour.

Tomatoes have a thin, smooth skin, with a juicy flesh containing numerous soft, edible seeds. Shape and size vary considerably depending on the variety and the colour of the skin ranges from red to yellow, orange and green, including some stripped varieties, with red, pink, green or yellow flesh.

Tomato plants originate from South America and were cultivated there as a food for centuries before being introduced to Europe in the 16th century during the Spanish colonisation of the Americas.

Tomato plants are suited to a temperate climate. They love warmth and grow best during summer, but local growers with green houses or poly houses can continue to grow tomato crops through winter in warmer areas such as Virginia on the Northern Adelaide Plains. Tomatoes are related to eggplants, capsicums and chillies and these crops also like similar growing conditions.

Synonymous with Italian cuisine and also an essential ingredient in many others, tomatoes add colour, juice and flavour to many dishes. Tomatoes should be stored at room temperature until they are fully ripe as refrigerating will reduce the development of flavour and the ability to ripen fully.

Each year, usually around mid Autumn, Italian families come together for their annual passata (fresh tomato sauce) making weekend. It’s laborious work but everyone plays a part, and all participants end up with sealed bottles, filled to the brim with sauce, to see them through the year. Fundamentally, it’s a celebration of gastronomic tradition.

The best tomato sauce is made using a unique sauce machine or food mill, the kind that separates the seeds and skin from the flesh, but not everyone owns one so a food processor, that simply whizzes the entire tomato to pulp is a great alternative. The application, flavour and colour will be the same, but the texture will be coarser.

Tomatoes store incredibly well and it’s worth taking the time to process as many as you have room to store. Fill containers with the tomato sauce; place a lid securely on the container and place in the freezer where it will keep perfectly for about 12 months.

You can find sauce tomatoes at the Alnda Farms, Patlin Gardens and N & M Tsmiklis stalls at Adelaide Showground Farmers’ Market, which runs on Sundays from 9am to 1pm at the Adelaide Showground, Leader Street, Wayville.

Alnda Farms also sell at the Willunga Farmers’ Market every Saturday morning from 8am to 12.30pm. Both Alnda Farms and N & M Tsmiklis also have stalls at Gawler Farmers’ Market, open on Saturdays from 8am to 12 noon at the Gawler Visitor Information Centre car park, 2 Lyndoch Road, Gawler.

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