Marked by a green collar, firm fleshed with a distinct saline acidity.
Summer tomatoes grow and ripen quickly. Raffaele’s Bull’s Heart are exposed to long hours of sunlight, with daytime temperatures reaching up to 35 degrees. Developing flavour from the outside in, ripe summer tomatoes are soft and red.
However there are tomato varieties that can only reach their full potential during winter. In these regions, nighttime temperatures can drop to below 5 degrees. Stressed by the cold and exposed to fewer hours of daylight, the plants must work harder to produce ripe fruit.
The plants are put under even greater duress by the salinity of their environment. Using a finely-tuned balance of rainfall and seawater, the growers irrigate the plants just enough to keep them alive. In these conditions the plants are forced to mature slowly, drawing on the unique balance of natural salts and minerals in the soil.
The fruit they produce reflects this slow, stressed growing process. Ripening from the inside out, their skins remain firm and streaked with green. However their flavour is fully developed, balancing the bright acidity of their seeds with the distinct umami sweetness of their slow-ripened flesh.
In season only from the end of December to early May, this flavour profile cannot be replicated at any other time of year.
Dec - May
The first variety of winter tomatoes to ripen, industrially-grown examples of Camone appear in early December. Grown too quickly, they lack acidity and have soft, dull flesh. We look for dark green streaks on thick, crunchy skin, a sign that the tomatoes have ripened slowly in cold weather.
Jan - May
With Raf, the tell-tale sign is a wide-ridged, flat bottom, clearly identifiable over the pointed, modern hybrid varieties being sold under the same name. Renowned for the remarkable balance between its sweet, crisp flesh and brightly acidic seeds.
Dec - May
We look for a tight, wine-dark skin in this variety, a sign that the fruit has ripened slowly in the stress of the cold. Industrially-grown examples will be lighter in colour, a sign of rapid yield. Ripening earlier than the Raf, they have a more saline flavour in their meaty flesh.
Jan - May
Now more readily available from early in the winter, we hold out until the end of January to try the deeply-ridged Sicilian Marinda, when its ideal growing conditions have set in. Crunchy, thick skin and firm flesh. Slightly tart, almost salty flavour, we consider this variety to hold the greatest depth of flavour of all the winter tomatoes.