The queen of the veggie garden is a blood-red tomato

Understanding all the myths and stories about tomatoes can be a vexing thing! To begin with, is it a fruit or a vegetable? Tomatoes have ovaries and seeds, which technically shouts fruit, but some people (like cooks) might prefer to put it into the vegetable category.

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It is said that the question of whether tomatoes are fruit or veg was actually taken to court, due to tax implications. And is it true that tomatoes make your blood redder and put iron in your veins, or are these just ‘grandmother myths’ like those that say carrots can make you see better in the dark, and pumpkin makes your hair curl?

Whatever can be said about a ripe tomato, no other plant satisfies your thirst or hunger as well as a tomato. It is only after smelling the wild scent of this hairy plant with its sun-kissed fruit, and biting into the satin-smooth skin that you will start thinking of all the possibilities for a bumper harvest, which are so much more than a simple cucumber and tomato salad.

Some of you will think first of a Bloody Mary, that cocktail of vodka, Worcestershire sauce, pepper and tomato juice that some folk might call ‘lunch’! But there are many other things to do with tomatoes:

The classic ‘braaibroodjie’

All South Africans know that a braai is not complete without a ‘braaibroodjie’, made up of juicy sliced tomatoes, sliced onions and thick layers of cheese between two slices of bread, and toasted on an open fire. But when challenged, folks come up with many other versions.

IMG_6088For a smart tomato base to this heritage dish do this:

Drizzle a few handfuls of small cherry tomatoes with a mixture of olive oil, thyme leaves, crushed garlic, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bake in a hot oven (200 °C) for about 20 minutes. (Source: www.capetownmagazine.com)

Classic tomato sauce
1,5 kg large ripe tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 (or more) cloves of garlic, crushed
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup of mixed oregano, parsley and basil, chopped

  1. Place the tomatoes in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Leave for about 2 minutes, then remove the skin and chop roughly.
  2. Heat oil in a saucepan and fry the onion and garlic over a low heat for a few minutes. Add tomatoes and carrots and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomato paste, sugar, salt and pepper and boil for a further 2 minutes.
  3. Pour the mixture into a food processor and process until smooth. Add the herbs and stir to combine.

Storage time: Store the sauce for 3 days in a refrigerator or up to 3 months frozen in a deep freeze. It can be used as a pizza base or as a base for different pasta sauces.

Tomato growing hints

  • Do not overfeed the plants with all kinds of additives. Compost-enriched, well-draining soil is fine. Only feed with a fertiliser rich in phosphorous and calcium at planting time, and again when the plants are in flower.
  • Never water over the leaves, only water at soil level.
  • Small varieties can grow very well in pots.
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