Did you know we’re eating more tomatoes than ever before? We get through around 500,000 tons of the red fruit every year, and that’s currently up by around 12 per cent. This is largely thanks to lockdown lunches: we’re 30 per cent more likely to add tomatoes to our lunch now than a year ago. Yet only a fifth of the tomatoes we eat are actually from the UK.
That’s something the British Tomato Growers’ Association, which represents 90 per cent of producers in the UK, is hoping to change by 2030. Julie Woolley, from the BTGA, says: “Growing tomatoes in Britain, for British consumers, means they stay on the vine for longer, so when they reach your plate they’re bursting with flavour and the nutritional value is higher too. Minimising the time between picking and eating is key.”
There are other obvious benefits too. “It’s also good news for the environment,” she adds, “as our growers are investing in better practices and technology to drastically reduce impact on the environment – from smart water recycling and LED lighting to renewable energy generation, natural predators to control pests and native UK bumblebees to pollinate the plants. Sustainability isn’t just important, it’s essential.”
High in lycopene, tomatoes have been linked with increasing the body’s defences against cancer, heart disease and other chronic diseases. High levels of vitamins A, C and E help keep skin, bones and teeth healthy, as well as boosting the immune system.
Ahead of British Tomato Fortnight, which started on Monday, the association carried out some polling and found that around three-quarters of us are prepared to pay a bit more for food that’s grown in the UK. But, “in less good news”, more than a third of us are eating our tomatoes straight from the fridge, despite advice from growers that “fridges do flavour no favour”.
“So much care goes into growing a crop of tomatoes, so we really want people to get the most from them in terms of taste” says Woolley. “Our advice is to store tomatoes in the fridge so they last longer, but bring them to room temperature before you eat them. Treat them like a fine red wine.”
Well, get your toms out the fridge, as the association has also invited some top influencers to recreate a lunchtime favourite: tomatoes on toast.
British tomato chilli jam and cream cheese on toast
Recipe by: @littlewomanfooddiary
Makes: 2 servings
Prep time: 10 mins | Cook time: 25 mins
4 slices of tiger bread
1 handful of rocket leaves (optional)
Tomato chilli jam
330g British cherry tomatoes, chopped into quarters
1 red sweet pointed pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
¼ red onion, finely sliced
4 tbsp soft dark brown sugar
½ tsp Lemon Juice
½ tsp chilli flakes
½ tsp smoked paprika
¼ tsp sea salt
1. To a pan add tomatoes, sweet peppers, red onion, brown sugar, lemon juice, chilli flakes, smoked paprika, and sea salt. On high heat bring the ingredients to a boil whilst stirring regularly
2. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook for 10 minutes. If the bottom of the pan begins to stick, stir in a tablespoon of water
3. Further reduce pan to medium heat and cook for an additional 10 minutes or until the ingredients have completely softened creating a jam-like consistency. Turn off the heat and set the jam aside
4. In a toaster or grill toast tiger bread to liking
5. On a plate, assemble toast by spreading on as much or as little cream as you want, top with rocket leaves, and lastly layer with tomato chilli jam
Tip: Ingredients can be doubled to make more jam. Any jam not used can be stored in the fridge in an airtight jar for 1-2 weeks.
Try out sourdough bread, a ciabatta or a baguette. Goats cheese, whipped feta, mozzarella and brie will also pair perfectly with the tomato chilli jam.
Greek salad and whipped feta flat bread
Recipe by: @georgia_levy_
Makes: 2 servings
Prep time: 10 mins | Cook time: 1 min
125g self-raising flour, plus extra to dust
½ tsp baking powder
90g Greek yoghurt
For the topping:
¼ small red onion, finely sliced
75g Greek yoghurt
½ garlic clove, crushed with a little salt
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
A small handful of dill leaves, finely chopped
A small handful of mint leaves, finely chopped
2 large ripe British tomatoes, cut into large chunks
¼ cucumber, cut into large chunks
2 tbsp stoned kalamata olives, roughly chopped
½ tsp dried oregano
1. Combine the flour, baking powder and ½ tsp salt in a bowl and stir in the yoghurt. Using your hands, bring the mix together, then tip onto a lightly-floured work surface and knead for a minute. Divide into two balls and put to one side for a moment
2. Place the onion in a small bowl and soak in cold water – this softens their pungency. Put to one side while you prepare everything else
3. Place the feta, Greek yoghurt, garlic and 1 tablespoon of oil in a small blender or food processor (or use a stick blender) and whizz together until nice and smooth (don’t worry if you can’t get it super smooth, it’ll still taste great). Season to taste and stir in the herbs, keeping a few pinches aside for the end
4. Place the tomatoes, cucumber and olives and remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a bowl and sprinkle over the oregano and some seasoning. Toss together and put to one side while you cook the flatbreads
5. Place a griddle pan (or frying pan will be fine too) over a high heat. On a lightly-floured work surface, roll out the flatbreads to approx 20cm diameter
6. When the pan is super hot, cook the flatbreads for approx 1 minute until char marks appear, then turn over and cook the other side
7. Transfer to plates and spread over the whipped feta. Pile on the tomatoes and cucumber and arrange the onion on top. Sprinkle over the reserved herbs, drizzle with a little extra oil, then eat with a knife and fork or wrap it up and eat with your hands
Mexican tomatoes on toast
Recipe by: @thefoodiemum
Makes: 2 servings
Prep time: 10 mins | Cook time: 5 mins
1 corn on cob
1 large slice of sourdough or 2 small ones
A sprinkle of coriander
1 Green jalapeño
1 Red chilli
8 small British tomatoes
1. First step is to griddle pan the corn on the cob, add a little oil to the pan on a medium heat and cook on each side until the corn is slightly charred.
2. When it is cool enough to hold, Slice off the kernels onto a chopping board.
3. Take your avocado and mash with a fork.
4. Squeeze in a quarter of the lime, finely chop some coriander and add that to the avocado.
5. Toast your sourdough.
6. Put the avocado mix onto the sourdough, half or chop the tomatoes – depending on your preference. And place them on top of the avocado.
7. Scatter the corn.
8. Sprinkle with chopped coriander, finely sliced jalapeño and chilli. A sprinkle of rock salt.
9. Serve with lime to squeeze.
Middle Eastern inspired bruschetta
Recipe by: @joeyandkatycook
Makes: 2 servings
Prep time: 30 mins | Cook time: 0 mins – it’s all in the prep!
For the green tahini:
4 spring onions
½ small clove garlic, finely minced
50 g green herbs; we suggest 2 large handfuls parsley and 1 large handful dill
2 lemons, juice only
6 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp olive oil
8 tbsp water
Pinch sea salt
Rinse the herbs if needs be; top and tail the onions and peel away the papery external layer, then roughly chop; and mince half a garlic clove. Transfer everything into a high powered blender, and whizz until smooth and creamy. This green tahini will keep in the fridge for 1 week in a sealed container or sterilised glass jar.
For the dukkah:
200g blanched hazelnuts (1⅓ cup)
50g sunflower seeds (⅓ cup)
2 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
50g sesame seeds
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp flakey sea salt
Dukkah is best made in a larger batch made, and you’ll be ever so glad you did! This recipe fills a medium Tupperware or kilner jar (approx 20 serves) and will last for up to 4 months in the cupboard.
To assemble the bruschetta:
4 generous slices of thickly cut sourdough
8 ripe British vine tomatoes
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp flakey sea salt
1 clove garlic
1. Preheat the oven to 150. Toast the hazelnuts for 12-14 minutes (until very golden); add the sunflower seeds after a few minutes so that they toast for 8-10 minutes
2. Toast the coriander and cumin in a dry frying pan until you can smell their gorgeous aroma; grind in a pestle and mortar. Toast the sesame seeds in the same frying pan, just until they start to pop and turn lightly golden
3. Allow everything to cool before blitzing. Blitz or “pulse” the hazelnuts in a food processor and after a few seconds add the sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, seasoning and spices. Leave as much or as little texture as you wish
4. Roughly chop the tomatoes and toss with the olive oil, red wine vinegar and sea salt.
Toast the sourdough until well charred, then rub with a cut clove of garlic
5. Pile your toast high with the tomato medley, then spoon over a generous amount of green tahini and liberally sprinkle the dukkah!
6. Serve and enjoy immediately.
During the British Tomato Fortnight (24 May-6 June), the British Tomato Growers’ Association is encouraging more people to buy British as it’s more sustainable, better for the local economy and arguably more tasty! More recipes and information on the campaign can be found here.