“A tomato may be a fruit, but it is a singular fruit.
A savoury fruit.
A fruit that has ambitions far beyond the ambitions of other fruits.”
― E. Lockhart, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
“It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a home-grown tomato.”
― Lewis Grizzard
“Home-grown tomatoes, home-grown tomatoes
What would life be like without home-grown tomatoes
Only two things that money can’t buy
That’s true love and home grown tomatoes.”
― John Denver, Home-grown Tomatoes
Such is the passion for the humble tomato, whose origins can be traced to South America, where the early Aztecs are said to have used the fruit in their cooking.
By around 500BC, the tomato had been domesticated and was being cultivated in southern Mexico and other areas.
Surprisingly, the tomato arrived in Europe only fairly recently.
The Spanish brought the tomato to Europe in the 16th century, after the Spanish colonisation of the Americas.
The fast-growing vine grew easily in Mediterranean climates, and steadily grew in popularity.
The first recorded history of tomatoes in Italy dates back to at least 1548, when Cosimo de Medici’s house steward wrote to the Medici private secretary, informing him that the basket of tomatoes sent from the grand duke's Florentine estate at Torre del Gallo “had arrived safely”.
For a long time however, tomatoes in Italy were grown only as “ornamentals”.
They were incorporated into the local cuisine in the late 17th or early 18th century.
Over the next several hundred years, Italy developed hundreds of now prized techniques for using and preserving tomatoes, including sundried, in sauces, and peeled and stored in jars.
The Belpaese also developed its own tomato varieties, the most famous of which are San Marzano, the Vesuvian Piennolo, and Sicilian Pachino.
These tomatoes are characterised by a relatively intense flavour compared to varieties typically grown elsewhere, which may be due to the ideal growing conditions, of volcanic soils and nearby seas, and of course, a whole lotta love.
In honour of this tasty staple, the Tomato Festival in Sydney included a village marketplace, with local producers selling tomato-based foods, free tours of the gardens, talks and cooking demonstrations with well known chefs.
One of the highlights was the Longest Tomato Lunch, which took place on the lawn across a 70-metre-long table for 250 guests.
The ticketed lunch included a four-course tomato feast designed by multi-award winning chef Luca Ciano.
A frozen popsicle al pomodoro was a refreshing start to the day, and carpaccio di pomodoro a local favourite.
Ciano prepared fresh Sardinian gnocchi as a feature of the meal, served with a crudaiola of fifteen different types of tomatoes, with garlic, chilli and basil, topped with ricotta salata and fresh rocket to serve.
In an interview with SBS radio, Ciano said that the aim of the lunch was to showcase the versatility of the savoury fruit.
He also said that home-grown tomatoes are by far the superior type of tomato, as they are matured on the vine and to be eaten on the day.
Store-bought tomatoes may have been picked green and ripened off the vine, and for this reason can be lacking in flavour.
Finally, Ciano emphasised that putting tomatoes in the fridge ruins the flavour of the fruit, so be careful how you store this family favourite!