James Martin at tomato farm

James Martin reveals what started his love affair with tomatoes and visits Asda’s closest producers

'If I could pick one ingredient that started my love affair with food, it would be the tomato'

By Asda Good Living, 17 September 2016
James Martin reveals what started his love affair with tomatoes and visits Asda’s closest producers

For chef James Martin, growing the very best-quality veg and bringing it from its source to the table is nothing less than an art form. In fact, he reveals it was the humble tomato that ignited his passion for cooking.

When we showed our results to Asda, their attitude was, “Wow, this is good!”

‘If I could pick one ingredient that started my love affair with food, it would be the tomato,’ he explains. ‘I remember the aroma of them growing in my grandfather’s greenhouse when I was just three years old.’

It’s very important to the chef that people know more about where their food comes from – which made him the perfect person to meet up with some of Asda’s top veg producers. ‘It’s good to be able to show people the process of how what we eat comes about,’ he says. So he was keen to speak to some of the growers who toil in the soil to make your veg super-special – from pumpkin-shaped tomatoes to a perfect salad spud and the sweetest lettuce…

Introducing the producer

Andy Roe has been tending to tomatoes since he was just 13 years old. And creating a new variety is as exciting for him now, aged 51, as it was when he grew his first crop. But it’s the pumpkin-shaped Tomkin tomato – unique to Asda – that holds a special place in his heart.

‘We discovered the Tomkin variety in Holland and brought it back to grow in Lancashire,’ Andy explains. ‘When we showed our results to Asda, their attitude was, “Wow, this is good!” Now the Tomkin is their flagship variety. ‘When I look at a tomato, it’s the eating experience that’s king. Tomkin has it all – the shape, the Ferrari-red glossy colour and the flavour!’

Andy and his colleagues at Flavourfresh Salads in Southport grow tomatoes in all shapes, sizes and colours. ‘The tomatoes that are black, brown and purple striped are quirky – but we always select varieties for flavour first,’ he says. ‘Each year we have about 150 trial types that we grow to try to find the next Tomkin.’

Noticeable among the vines in the greenhouses are bee hives. The bees play an important role, pollinating the flowers that will produce the tomatoes, and it takes up to 63 days before the fruit is harvested. Andy says that the success of a tomato is down to the skill of the grower. ‘I’m driven to find new varieties – and make them better.’

Wine match: Team your toms with a juicy wine like Le Grand Clauzy Sauvignon, a full-flavoured Sauvignon Blanc with notes of gooseberry, passion fruit, guava and a touch of lime. 

Give it a whirl with James Martin's delicious Tomkin Tomato Penne recipe.

Or try this James Martin's pan-fried sea bass with sauce vierge.