28 Nov2005

Kamatis / Tomatoes

by Marketman

Getting consistently decent tomatoes in Manila is not easy. I agree. aatom1But if you look carefully and treat your tomatoes right, the situation doesn’t seem as desperate… I am not sure what the ideal growing conditions are for really good tomatoes but we don’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) – 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 lucky… 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 rosemary…

Next, in this photo at right were some perfectly vine-ripened “native” tomatoes aatom2I 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 “should-last-you-all-week” pile of tomatoes… 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 process… 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!



  1. Chris says:

    Hi marketman, my dad grows organic heirloom tomatoes in our farm in Cagayan, the ones with ridges and look like little red pumpkins. I was hesitant to eat it at first because they look ugly but as I found out later, they taste great! I usually use it for pasta but the best way to eat them is with my dad’s homemade salted duck eggs. The tomatoes are seasonal, I’ll email you on the next harvest so you can have a taste.

    Nov 28, 2005 | 5:26 pm


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  3. Marketman says:

    Chris, please let me know. They can be really, really good. There are dozens and dozens of newly “re-discovered” heirlooms in Europe and the U.S. that all look wonderful and I am told taste delicious!

    Nov 28, 2005 | 5:31 pm

  4. Alicia says:

    I realized I was “maturing” when I began to appreciate a good tomato! And yes it is so difficult to consistently find good sweet tomatoes here. I remember I used to buy tomatoes grown in israel(when I was living in nyc) Are those heirloom? What characterizes them as such? Please share the source when chris emails you regarding his next harvest!

    Nov 28, 2005 | 7:45 pm

  5. fried-neurons says:

    I love tomatoes as well. I don’t really know my way around the different varieties, so I buy whatever looks good at the market… typically vine-ripened, or cherry/grape, or some kind of heirloom that strikes my fancy. I only buy ’em fresh when they’re in season in the summer, though. Off-season, I just buy canned.

    Nov 28, 2005 | 9:21 pm

  6. Sister says:

    The tomatoes on the vine look like hydroponic tomatoes, similar to the ones from Israel, perfectly red but watery and with little flavour. We get those in the winter and they are not worth buying. Only grape tomatoes seem to defy the weather and are available from greenhouses all throughout the winter.
    “Heirloom” seeds are readily available and well worth the trouble. “Brandywine”, “Black Pearl” “Zebra”. etc. are fairly common in farmers markets in California and NYC. The tomatoes do not come in constant sizes but have superior flavour from August through September, too short a season.
    You need a drop of 20F from day to night for pollinated flowers to turn into fruit and hot weather, above 80F to ripen and sweeten tomatoes. You should be able to grow them in Tagaytay or Cagayan. Find a patient farmer and I will get some seeds for you.

    Nov 28, 2005 | 9:44 pm

  7. gonzo says:

    Those heirloom seeds are a good idea. i’ve said it before, whoever figures out how to grow good tomatoes in this country will make a fortune. MM, you familiar with the san marzano tomato? Someone should try out THOSE seeds in Tagaytay.

    Nov 29, 2005 | 10:38 am

  8. willy says:

    actually, sandy/loamy soil is ideal for the plant to fruit good tomatoes…until now, when in season, our little market in santa rita sells heirloom tomatoes…karen of Pilgrim’s Pots and Pans would know the varieties still available…had the farms not been affected by lahar, vegetable growers from our town would still be able to plant and sell these in divisoria or balintawak markets…unfortunately too, this liberalization in trade made it unprofitable for the farmers to plant more…

    Nov 29, 2005 | 12:22 pm

  9. Karen says:

    Hmmm… I seem to always be making a guest appearance on MM’s blog, hehehe!

    What Chris mentioned as heirloom tomatoes (like brandywine) are quite common to us in Pampanga. Those are our old kamatis which we call kapak. We prefer them for sawsawan since they have thinner skin and are juicier. A few pieces plus some fresh chicharon would make a meal!

    Nov 29, 2005 | 12:47 pm

  10. Chris says:

    Yes, I think that’s it Karen, it must be related to that kamatis from pampanga. Although the tomatoes I mentioned are quite meaty and not at all watery, I wouldn’t say it’s juicier than most tomatoes. It’s quite the opposite, in fact. My dad is kapampangan and he’s so proud of his old kamatis variety that you can’t buy in markets anymore. Everyone prefers the perfect looking hydroponic tomatoes. And uhm, one more thing, forgive my ignorance but wouldn’t that be considered heirloom? Am I taking the word heirloom too literally?

    Nov 29, 2005 | 9:14 pm

  11. ajyoung says:

    I just want to comment on how nice the shots you made on your tomatoes. Galing!! :)

    Nov 29, 2005 | 9:28 pm

  12. Karen says:

    Tee hee! Chris, your interpretation. :-) But I suppose by now we can consider them as literally heirloom since they’re from old varieties and are a bit rare nowadays.

    On the average, a large kapak or mendes would probably equal three or four plums or romas. Our tomatoes are also meaty but they’re thin-skinned that’s why they don’t travel well. Sometime back, I heard they were developing a hybrid that would have thicker skin to last longer.

    Nov 30, 2005 | 2:03 am

  13. Marketman says:

    I want to try some of these terrific tomatoes that Karen and Chris are being very kapampangan about!!! Do I have to go to the Sta Rita market to get some??

    Nov 30, 2005 | 6:58 am

  14. Chris says:

    I asked my dad about them and he’s not sure about the name but he says they’re the old variety introduced by the Spaniards and were simply called ‘native’ tomatoes. He says he saw some big ones in Argentina (as big as a platito!). My brother says he’s seen them in organic markets in New York too, and they’re labeled as, uhm, “ugly tomato” :) told you they were ugly! but good. MM, the tomatoes in Cagayan have marble-sized fruits already. I hope the weather cooperates, you know Cagayan is typhoon alley.

    Nov 30, 2005 | 2:07 pm

  15. Karen says:

    MM, you might find some if you go to the Duman Festival on Saturday. Hehehe! Will alert you if the kamatis are in the marketplace.

    Yes Chris, they’re more and more known as native tomatoes. They’re also not very symmetrical hence the name-calling.

    I’ve searched my archives. Two fruits are included in the Semi-Elaborate Pinakbet post. Will try to work on a separate tomato entry.

    Nov 30, 2005 | 8:36 pm

  16. Marketman says:

    Karen, I would love to go to the Duman Festival but I have a huge previous commitment on Saturday. Maybe next year. I really did want to make it!

    Nov 30, 2005 | 8:59 pm

  17. Lani says:

    We call it native tomatoes, it look like red small pumpkins (as Chris mentioned). It’s really good as “sawsawan.”

    I always find this variety in Bulacan.

    Dec 2, 2005 | 5:34 am

  18. Lani says:

    P.S. Once in a while, you can also find it in Balintawak.

    Dec 2, 2005 | 5:35 am

  19. Chris says:

    Wow, I can’t believe I’m so ignorant about local kamatis varieties. All along I thought they were so exotic! And they turn out to be the native ones for sawsawan! heheh. But I think it’s good there are people left who still appreciate them.
    MM, is it true that tomato varieties that farmers can grow commercially in Italy is strictly regulated? I heard that somewhere but it doesn’t make sense at all.

    Dec 3, 2005 | 2:36 pm

  20. Marketman says:

    Chris, not sure if there is a prescribed type of tomato to be grown in Italy but the ones they do grow are SUPERB. You should get your dad some heirloom tomato seeds from the states… if he grows them on the farm he might be a pioneer into Manila restaurants…just a few months ago there was a terrific article in Gourmet magazine about a farm in California that only focused on tomatoes…

    Dec 4, 2005 | 6:40 pm

  21. Chris says:

    Oh I will, MM. That’s a good idea! Thanks for the tip : )

    Dec 5, 2005 | 7:27 pm

  22. John says:

    Where could I get some potted dwarf tomatoes?

    Jan 30, 2006 | 1:12 pm

  23. Marketman says:

    Sorry John, I haven’t the foggiest clue where to get dwarf tomatoes…

    Jan 30, 2006 | 5:49 pm

  24. apollo says:

    Hi..my parents owned a 2ha agri lots in northern luzon..and planning to develop into a farm (vegetable farm).planning to plant it with tomatoes and bell pepper..where can i find a good seeds for my farm?thank you in advance for your help..GOD BLESS!

    Feb 21, 2006 | 11:20 am

  25. Marketman says:

    apollo, I am not sure where you can find good seeds. The best ones are probably imported though they may not be acclimated to the local weather and soil conditions. You may just have to do it trial by error style…

    Feb 21, 2006 | 4:32 pm

  26. zhenydc says:

    where in laguna can i buy tomato. what market sell tomato for wholesale.

    Aug 10, 2009 | 7:16 am


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