Posts Tagged With: producers

Sexy Tomatoes – The Tomato Stall

Sexy Tomatoes from The Tomato Stall

Sexy Tomatoes from The Tomato Stall

Every cook craves them, a sexy tomato stash!  Tomatoes can be the most wonderful ingredient on the planet or the most insipid, watery ball of red nonsense (aka most supermarket fodder).  Jane and I know our way around a tomato after spending plenty of time in Spain where we are surrounded by tomato plantations, normally growing toms for the Northern Europe market.

We have struggled in the early part of this year to get our hands on good produce and feel chuffed to have found the brilliant people at The Tomato Stall to supply us with fresh tomatoes; the most incredible oak smoked tomatoes and even a seriously kickin’ ginger chilli chutney.

The Tomato Stall have a wide range of products from ketchup to juice and I’ve chatted with Kelly over there at length about all things TOMS and they are seriously passionate about what  they do and the proof is in produce.  They grow many heirloom varieties, all additive free and mostly organic and all bursting with flavour and oh so juicy.

Beautiful bowl of Toms

Beautiful bowl of TOMS

We ate most of our bounty raw, like a box of chocolates, but way cooler.  There are so many colours; yellow, greens, speckled, vivid reds and even some they call black (more very dark green really).  The flavours of each variety were distinctly different; some sweeter, some more citrus; some meaty, some just exploded with juice.  With tomatoes like this it does seem a shame to cook them or tamper with the flavour, they are best served simply with maybe some extra virgin olive oil and a little sea salt.  That’s sounding like one of the worlds greatest salads!

We will be switching to local tomatoes when the crops come in (hopefully in a few weeks) but have no issues ordering tomatoes from the Isle of Wight when they are this wonderful (did we mention that the oak smoked tomatoes are one of the best things to pass our lips in a long time!)  Great tomatoes are so difficult to come by on this island and these are grown in Britain and not giant plastic plantations in Spain or Italy.

If you are struggling to get your hands on good tomatoes in the UK, let Kelly know and they’ll send some to a farm shop near you.

We love to have the opportunity to spread the good word of passionate food producers who are doing things properly.  If you are crazy about food and would like to send us a sample of your produce, we’ll taste them and let you know what we think.  We may even stick them on the Beach House Kitchen.

PS – Tomato a fruit or vegetable?  It seems obvious, but still a little room for debate.  Tomatoes just don’t quite go in a fruit salad!

Categories: B.H.K Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Rhubarb Triangle

I admit to getting nostalgic about rhubarb.

It would be fair to say that, for large parts of my childhood, I was raised on rhubarb.  Times were hard, no one had heard of mangos!  I used to have a den near a rhubarb patch and would regularly eat the stuff raw and probably covered with soil.  I have many great memories of Mum’s rhubarb crumbles with custard.

I was interested to learn about the ‘Rhubarb Triangle’ in sunny Yorkshire (England). It’s a 23 sq km triangle, but during the rhubarb boom years of the early 20th century, was a whopping 78 sq km. We’ve just gone off crumbles (and rhubarb)! Why?  It is such a star of the British food world, with a unique bittersweet flavour and is full of nutrients (packed with Vitamin A, B and K).

Rhubarb is a native of Siberia, which explains to some extent why it thrives in this triangle of Yorkshire. They produced what is called ‘forced’ rhubarb, grown in large sheds and at one time, Yorkshire produced 90% of the world’s output. North Yorkshire Rail used to have a special rhubarb train running daily, carrying on average, 200 tonnes of the tasty stalk. It even reached the markets of Paris.

In 2010 the rhubarb triangle was given a P.D.O. (Protective Designation of Origin), like wine and cheese, normally on the continent (but increasingly more so in Britain, our produce is finally getting some respect).

The rhubarb is kept in well fertilised fields for two years, then shown a little frost and put into the warmed ‘forcing’ sheds. They then begin to sweeten up, converting stored carbohydrate into sugar.  The rhubarb grows to around 2 feet in length and they are picked by candle light, as the rhubarb stops growing in light.

Forced winter Rhubarb is bright crimson and more tender than the outdoor summer variety. By March the harvest is over.  Wakefield Council are still running an annual Forced Rhubarb Festival in February.  If you’re interested?

Rhubarb is doing ok, but took a big hit after WW2 when more exotic fruits (I know its not specifically a fruit) became fashionable. The pineapples and mangos etc in Britain are rubbish! Terrible. What are they treating fragile papayas with to make them last the journey from Central America? It is mental that we eat these fruits regularly on this grey island.  They are inherently tropical.   I don’t expect a good pint of bitter in Costa Rica!

Rhubarb however is local, delicious and picked by candlelight. Romantic, red and ravishing (sort of)…..drop the kumquats, support your local rhubarb bunch and eat more crumbles!

Expect more rhubarb action soon at the B.H.K. or check out the ‘Rhubarb and Custard Cake’ recipe below.

Categories: Local food | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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