Ed Halmagyi, one of Australia's favourite TV chefs and food authors, is also a keen gardener. He tells us all about his favourite summer fruit, tomato, with tips for growing.
With apologies to Mr Dickens, a tomato can offer the best of times… and the worst of times.
A home-grown tomato is a thing of beauty. These sultry, plump, ripe red fruits beckon with their unnerving sweetness and lusciousness. A perfectly ripe tomato plucked fresh from the vine is a ravishing and wonderful thing, but the process of tending them to their juicy peak can be fraught with dangers.
For the first-time gardener, it’s worth going with a sure bet. Most of the cherry tomato varieties (including the vividly golden pear tomato) are simple to plant, manage and harvest. What’s more, they’ll give you an abundant crop all through summer, and even into the start of autumn.
But if you’re intent on putting some of the larger (possibly heirloom) varieties in the ground, there are a few rules to follow. Most tomatoes have a tendency to suffer from moisture-related mould and mildew issues. This can affect the plant itself and cause the fruit to drop off before it really sets. What a pain… after all the effort you put into setting up a bed and getting the seedlings going, there’s nothing so disappointing as a failed crop.
But the solution is remarkably simple. Just use a sharp pair of pruning scissors to remove two-thirds of the mature leaves, especially the ones around the fruit. Allowing sunlight to bathe the ripening fruits and air to move freely not only ensures that they survive, but it also enriches and sweetens their flavour in an entirely organic way.
For Ed’s seasonal recipes, check out his book The Food Clock: A Year of Cooking Seasonally or visit http://www.fast-ed.com.au/
This story first featured in Flavour The Peter McInnes Magazine, Summer 2012/13.