Yay… It’s time to celebrate; not just the promise of Spring as candy coloured blossom appears in the garden but it’s the season for super tasty Merinda tomatoes. Simple pleasures are by far the best and after the drudgery of tasteless Dutch hot-house produce, this Sicilian gem has flavour that’s rarely matched by other varieties. Its unique taste is the product of salty seaside soil and gentle ripening in cool conditions, growing over the winter months and harvested between February and May. Don’t be put deterred by its looks: heavily ridged with a thick, crunchy skin, and where the perfect specimen seems under-ripe with green shoulders that gradually changes to orange and red as it ages. Firm fleshed, the Merinda is perfect for cooking but this would be a travesty as they are best eaten finely sliced and raw, garnished with a sprinkle of salt and drizzle of olive oil. But don’t stop there, surprise guests with a dishes that lets simple ingredients scream from the roof-top; sprinkle with sea salt before scattering morsels of creamy burrata, basil leaves and a little fruity oil or, pimp out to impress with toasted walnuts and botargo (smoked roe of grey mullet) or even try a strange sounding favourite: remove the casing before crumbling a length of fresh black pudding into a frying pan with a teaspoon of oil, cooking until it begins to blacken and crisp; cool before arranging over the tomatoes.

With regularity, the press reminds that supermarket tomatoes are disappointingly tasteless and indeed, the majority of factory cultivated fruit is just not worth effort so it’s encouraging to see a recent surge in ‘heirloom’ varieties, but these still vary in taste. I have distant memories of tending to a bounty of cherry tomatoes growing on a sunny terrace overlooking the aquamarine coastline of Gulf of La Spezia in the spectacular Cinque Terre region of Northern Italy so my plan is to attempt to replicate this with large pots in a sunny garden spot. Whilst the view will certainly be different, there is little that beats harvesting sun warmed fruit that’s so irresistibly sweet few survive to the kitchen. Sentimental memories of morning long searching for restaurants hidden away in nearby mountain top villages and afternoons spent browsing local markets in search of suppertime treats; distant times but a delicious benchmark for how a tomato should really taste.