Last year, we grew tomatoes for the first time. And we did so with our characteristic enthusiasm, lack of knowledge and ignoring of instructions. So inside our raised bed we planted out radishes and beetroot, chard and kale, tenderstem broccoli and Brussels sprouts – and one very busy row of tomatoes.
We didn’t let this lack of real estate hold us back, oh no. We really went to town with the tomato seedlings. Crammed ’em in. ‘You should pinch those out,’ my father-in-law, a seasoned gardener, said more than once, with a hint of panic in his voice. We did not heed his advice. And that’s how last year, we ended up frantically googling ‘green tomato recipes’ to cope with the absolute glut of unripened tomatoes that were falling off our unsupported, overcrowded, chaotic vines. We made green tomato chutney, green tomato marmalade and pickled green tomatoes like our lives depended on it.
This year, we have approached the whole thing with a little more pragmatism. Our seedlings are more sensibly spaced; we have pinched them out with the vigour we had previously reserved for planting them. So we actually have a sensible number of tomatoes growing, a number that might make it to ripeness. And I am determined to make the most of our haul, which means using them at their absolute peak.
An old-fashioned French-style tomato tart seems the perfect way to showcase the best of our harvest. It’s so obvious, such a celebration of the summer that it’s one of those dishes that feels like it must always have existed. It almost seems too simple: fat, ripe tomatoes are sliced thinly and sit on a crisp pastry base which is painted with a good layer of Dijon mustard.