There are summer vegetables- corn, cucumbers, courgette- and then there is that ultimate sign of the sun lit months, the tomato. Tomatoes are heat loving plants from the nightshade family, alongside potatoes, eggplant, and chiles. While they're eaten and prepared like a vegetable, they are in fact botanically a fruit. Tomatoes come in a wide range of hues and shapes, with varieties to suit every need- sauce tomatoes, juicers, heirloom beauties for caprese salad, sweet little cherry tomatoes, those suited for sun-drying or bottling, low acid, big beefsteak, green tomatoes for battering- the list goes on. They are a major source of lycopene, a plant nutrient with antioxidant properties that protect cells from damage, plus vitamins A and C, calcium and potassium.
There's something intoxicating about the sun-warmed smell of garden fresh tomatoes. It always reminds me that we've reached the peak days of late summer, and their sweetness is something to be treasured. The first tomatoes of the season I invariably eat with no further adornment than a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and then it's a mix of enjoying them in their many guises, and putting them up for the colder months. One of the easiest ways to enjoy tomatoes both today and in the darker days of winter is to slow roast them with garlic, olive oil, and herbs. Slow roasting concentrates the incredible tomato flavours, and they taste amazing straight from the oven on sourdough with fresh basil, and will also retain those bright notes when frozen to warm a colder day. I did a small batch with just the tomatoes I had on hand because they're just so delicious, but I would usually do these in larger quantities when there's a glut of tomatoes and I can freeze down a lot at once.
800g Tomatoes, halved
8 cloves Garlic, peeled
Thyme, Oregano, Basil, Rosemary
The How To:
Preheat the oven to 160•. Line a large baking tray. Lay tomatoes, cut side up, on the tray. Scatter garlic cloves, then sprinkle with herbs and sea salt. Drizzle olive oil generously over everything. Pop the tray in the oven for around 2 hours. Once finished and cooled, pour the contents of the tray, including the juices and olive oil, into freezer bags to store up to 6 months frozen, or refrigerate and use within 5 days.
-It's possible to slow the roasting time and lower the temperature further, around 120• for 4 hours, but I've chosen a middle ground timing and temperature. Take your pick, they both result in delicious tomatoes.