Getting consistently decent tomatoes in Manila is not easy. I agree. But if you look carefully and treat your tomatoes right, the situation doesnâ€™t seem as desperateâ€¦ I am not sure what the ideal growing conditions are for really good tomatoes but we donâ€™t seem to have them on Luzon. Recent success with greenhouse tomatoes yield reasonably good looking specimens but the flavor is not intense and the consistency of pulp highly watery. Here are some tricks to help improve the quality of your tomatoes (this post after several emails from readers asking about tomatoes) â€“ first, look for naturally good tomatoes, firm, unblemished with fresh green stems (if still attached). Never refrigerate the fruit as the cold seems to adversely affect their pulp/flavor/ripening capability. Just leave them out on the kitchen counter turned upside down to ripen. This past weekend I was pretty luckyâ€¦ first, I found the nice medium sized tomatoes in this first photo at the Toscana stand on the way up to Tagaytay and at PHP60 a kilo, very reasonably priced. I bought several kilos to bring to the beach. The stand also had a huge live sage plant for just PHP150 as well as Italian parsley and rosemaryâ€¦
Next, in this photo at right were some perfectly vine-ripened â€œnativeâ€ tomatoes I found in the Nasugbu market on Saturday morning. Grown outdoors and subject to vagaries of nature, they looked pretty darn good to me. The lady selling them was amused that I wanted the perfectly ripe and ready-to-eat in two hour specimens rather than the firmer, semi-ripe â€œshould-last-you-all-weekâ€ pile of tomatoesâ€¦ At PHP30 a kilo, I bought three kilos and had several ideas how to use up all these tomatoes. I once read somewhere that if you put unripe tomatoes in a paper bag with an apple, they ripen faster or better, something to do with the gases let off by the apple encouraging the processâ€¦ In the past year, I have found several varieties of cherry tomatoes, nice red and yellow grape tomatoes grown by some specialist provedores, decent beefsteak tomatoes (albeit mostly greenhouse raised) and pretty good native varieties. I am still hoping that a grower or two will start to introduce the “heirloom” varieties that are all the rage in the states as I really really like tomatoes!