Wednesday, 23 July 2008

And then there was a tomato...(or a little bio market in Toulouse, number four)

I am living my dream: it is lucious and juicy, with the best perfume and colour in the wolrd. I am surrounded by this simultaneously exotic and common fruit (although still a vegetable to me) - a beautiful, ever-changing and omnipresent Tomato.

The history of the Tomato is akin to a modern day celebrity: it started off being an unknown creature, considered not just inedible, but also sinful and generally really bad for you; it then acquired quite a considerable amount of fame, stretching to all sorts of different corners of the world, and finally became a necessity.

I feel I ought to admit it now - my secret reason for coming to France (to wwoof and otherwise) was in fact to encounter this multicoloured creature and enjoy its abundance in fullness. As my closest and dearest know, Tomato is my most favorite fruit and vegetable in the whole wide world!

I was very fortunate in that my first wwoof hosts grew something like 10 or even 15 different types of tomatoes in their little mountain garden...I was less fortunate in that it was a bit too earlier in the season and most of the tomatoes were not ripen yet. However, my lovely hosts, Odile and Jacque, made my stay that bit more special by presenting me with a little gift on the eve of my departure...a plate of just off the vine tomatoes, laced with little leaves of basil and sprinkled with a little olive oil and bazilic vinegar. This was such a wonderful gesture that showed how they understood my real tomatoy core:); but it said even more about themselves as people - so kind, sensitive, attentive. I helped to grow these little orange tomatoes (yes, they were the little bright golden variety), nursing them, watering them..I did feel a bit like a proper little farmer that night:)

My most recent wwoof hosts have been of a different kind (which, by the way, explains my disappearance from the blog for a while) - a family of real working farmers with two little kids, a house and business to run. So I have been working for the last week, no such nonsense as leasury long lunches with rosé or going for walks in the morning when weeds need to be weeded. However, I have been allowed (pure paradise!) to pick as many tomatoes as my soul and belly desired off the ground of the glasshouse. To my surprise, even the French folk can be just as choosy these days as your average English gent - they want pretty and firm tomatoes of roughly the same size, not some big monstrosities with juice sprinting out of them! Well, the latter was more than agreeable with me, so viva la tomato! I took this picture below on my return from the glasshouse. I didn't have anything to carry them with, so I just juse my shirt as a sack. I put them by the window, to keep them warm and sunny, and then ate, 1-2-3 at the time, as snacks, as dessert or as an appetiser.

One fine morning, when I was off my farming duties and inspite of the claustrophobic ruralness of my then habitat I managed to get to Toulouse for a day. The main reason was - you guessed it - to visit a market. In fact, on that day there were two markets in town: a tiny organic market in the main square and the most famous covered market Les Halles. I got stuck in the former though since the very first stall that I came across was this buzzying little place selling almost nothing else but tomatoes, and so many different ones too: Rose de Berne (large and pinky), Green Zebra (just as the name suggests..), Tomates des Andes (heavy and pointy), Tomates Ananas (huge and fluorescent yellow), Purple Colabash (really weird little dark ones), Beauté Blanches (elegent and pale) etc etc. The whole scene made me so sunny and warm inside, that my heart started bouncing! I was stupidly smiling and walking around the stall in circles. Ok, maybe the fact that the seller of this tomato glory was a wholesome, tanned fellar, with a kind smile and sturdy hands (a kind of farmer very late night television is fond of..;) helped the matters (sorry muz:)), but just that, he added to the atmosphere, the Tomatoes were the stars.

I bought a few of course: Le Voyage (a really cute and funny looking one - it is shaped almost like a garlic bulb, each individual section is joined to the whole); Ancienne (it was the best tasting in the end, multicoloured and long, sweet and thinnly skinned), and (!!) Noir de Crimea, yes, the Crimean Dark ones (small and almost black). I had all of them at lunch later on, with a nice chunk of white crusty bread and beautiful oily sardines. Heaven..Tome will show if i can satisfy my tomato-cravings enough to actually get tired of them, but now I am still as addicted.

p.s. I am writting this now that my wwoofing is over and I am enjoying a well earned break with Mr Catherall before going to a wedding of a friend in Carcassonne tomorrow and then enjoying the last few days in Provence, on my own, before taking a train back to London. The plan is to go to all the market gems: Montpellier, Aix-en-Provence, Marseille..I will do my best to write as much as possible.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Are their no limits to Katrina's facets ? Now she announces the tomato as the fruit/veg closest to her heart in the whole world, & almost makes me drool w. the pictures & description of ways to be a Tom Crimean Black, fa gahd' sake but hey hey Why are the labels on the Tom stall in English ? ? Where are you ?

Were the early, dangerous tomatoes believed an aphrodisiac ? Well today they are seen as having huge health benefits, from "Lycopene" I believe