Recipe from the Veg Patch, Mary Berry's Plum Tomato, Olive and Marjoram Tart
As we head into April, it’s time to start thinking about starting off your tomato seeds indoors, so you’ll be ready to plant them out in May and June. With this in mind, we’ve asked our resident expert Matt Biggs for his expert tips on growing tasty toms, and paired this with Mary Berry’s delectable plum tomato, olive and marjoram tart recipe.
Tips from the Veg Patch: Matt Biggs's top tips for growing tomatoes
- If your plants are a bit ‘leggy’ don’t worry, planting tomatoes 5-10cm or more deeper than they are in the pot, so you are burying the stems. Tomatoes produce roots from the stems, so they will develop a larger root system for better uptake of food and water.
- As the plant grows, shoots form where the base of the leaf joins the main stem. Pinch these out with your finger and thumb rather than secateurs, when they are 2.5cm long. This ensures that you have one main stem, all the energy goes into producing fruit and the plant remains nice and tidy. Bush or trailing tomatoes don’t need ‘pinching out’.
- To guarantee a good crop of tomatoes, tap the fully open flowers with your finger around mid-day on a warm sunny day to ensure pollination takes place. You will see pollen falling from the flower. Do this every time a new cluster of flowers appears.
- You can grow tomatoes indoors in growing bags, in a shallow tray, by a sunny patio doors or smaller bush varieties on a windowsill. If you are using growing bags, turn them vertically, shake the bag so the compost settles, then fold the excess plastic underneath, planting two plants in the bag rather than the recommended three. This means there is less competition for nutrients and water and avoids problems with ‘Blossom End Rot’, where the end of the fruit turning brown.
- You can grow tomatoes in pots of multipurpose compost at least 30 cm in diameter. Keep the compost moist at all times to stop the fruit from splitting, watering the compost, around the base, not the foliage and feed with high potash fertiliser, according to the manufacturers instructions, to encourage flowering and fruiting.
Recipe from the Veg Patch: Mary Berry's Plum Tomato, Olive & Marjoram Tart
For the pastry
- 150g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
- 75g butter, chilled & cut into cubes
- 1 egg, beaten
For the filling
- 2 eggs
- 200ml crème fraîche
- 50g Cheddar cheese, grated
- 50g Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 tbsp finely chopped marjoram
- 6 large plum tomatoes, skinned and sliced into rounds
- 12 pitted black olives, halved
- ½ tbsp balsamic vinegar
1. For the pastry, measure the flour and butter into a food processor and whizz until the mixture is like breadcrumbs. Alternatively, place the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and rub in the butter with your fingertips. Add the egg and whizz again until a ball of dough is formed.
2. Sprinkle your work surface with flour and roll out the dough to the thickness of a £1 coin and large enough to fit into a 12 x 36cm loose-bottomed tranche tin with 2.5cm-3cm sides. Line the base and sides with the pastry, leaving a generous edge to allow for shrinkage in the oven, prick the pastry all over with a fork and chill in the fridge for 30 mins.
3. Heat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6 and place a large baking sheet inside to get very hot.
4. For the filling, break the eggs into a jug or bowl, add the crème fraîche, Cheddar, Parmesan and half of the marjoram. Season with salt and pepper and mix until combined.
5. Line the pastry case with baking paper and baking beans, place it on the hot baking sheet and bake blind for 15 mins. Remove the paper and beans and return to the oven for a further 5 mins to dry out. Remove the pastry case from the oven and lower the oven temperature to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4.
6. Pour the filling into the pastry case and lay the tomato slices overlapping in five or six rows widthways across the top. Arrange the olive halves in between the rows of tomatoes and sprinkle with the remaining marjoram. Brush the tomatoes and olives with the balsamic vinegar.
7. Bake for 25–30 mins until the pastry is golden and cooked and the top is browned. Trim the edges to remove any overhanging pastry, then carefully remove from the tin and serve warm with dressed salad leaves.
Mary Berry makes this in a long, thin tranche tin as it gives a lovely shape but if you don’t have a tranche tin, a 23cm round flan tin would make a good alternative. To skin tomatoes, cut a cross in the top of each tomato, place in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave to stand for a couple of mins, then drain and rinse in cold water. The skins will now peel of easily.
For more top growing tips and recipe inspiration, sign up the the newsletter today, and book a day out at BBC Gardeners' World Live with our latest online ticket offer!