If I had to become a castaway on a desert island, the one food I'd miss most is tomatoes. I can't imagine life without them. Round, juicy and sweet, these glorious orbs of flavour have the ability to add a vibrancy and freshness to dishes that nothing else can achieve. Served fresh and raw, they truly are the taste of summer.
Few ingredients are this versatile: look around you this week and see how many guises they appear in. You'll spot them raw in salads, sandwiches and salsas, used as the main ingredient in pasta sauce and pizza sauce, as well as soups (like gazpacho), fish stews, curries and tagines. Then there's those irresistible tomato condiments, from chutneys, relish and barbecue marinades, to the ubiquitous tomato ketchup.
One look demonstrates how integral tomatoes are to so many cuisines, from Mexico to Morocco, Italy to America. Quite simply, it's hard to imagine a world without tomatoes.
Over the last few years, it's become easier to find different varieties of fresh and canned tomatoes in Irish shops (and there are several thousand varieties globally!). We've moved on from simple salad tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, sun-dried and semi-sundried to a whole host of fruity beauties, including heirloom tomatoes in dazzling shades of green, orange, yellow, purple and ruby red. Serve raw tomatoes at room temperature as they lose flavour eaten straight from the fridge.
Food writer, Jenny Linford, shares my love of tomatoes, and her lovely new book, The Tomato Basket, is a perfect celebration of this fabulous fruit. Featuring 75 'deliciously different ways to prepare, eat and enjoy the tomato in all its glory', it offers mouth-watering inspiration for the ultimate ingredient.
Recipes from 'The Tomato Basket' by Jenny Linford, with photography by Peter Cassidy, (Ryland Peters and Small, €22.50)