Watery, tasteless, boring – all words you’ve probably thought when eating the average supermarket tomato. This is because four out of every five tomatoes are imported, meaning they’ve been picked long before they reach your dinner plate. However, from now until the end of summer, British tomatoes are in abundance (and are, in fact, available throughout the rest of the year), offering more variety, flavour and freshness than those from abroad ever could.
Tomato growers on the continent aren’t producing poor tomatoes, it’s just that the fruits don’t travel particularly well. Imported varieties tend to be picked when they’re still unripe and green, so they can turn red en route to the UK and arrive with a longer shelf life. This means they’re sitting in a refrigerated lorry at the very time when they should be developing their fresh, perfumed flavour. British tomatoes, on the other hand, don’t need to trek thousands of miles to reach shop shelves; this means they’re left to ripen naturally on the vine before being packed and sold within days.
Being grown in greenhouses also means British tomatoes are harvested all over the country, not just in the sunnier parts of southern England. The Isle of Wight, in particular, is known for its tomatoes, thanks to its unique maritime climate, while Yorkshire is home to hundreds of giant greenhouses. You can find locally-grown tomatoes in nearly every region of the UK, all tasting fresher and more flavourful than anything imported from the continent.