Marmande Tomatoes, Often Called The King Of Tomatoes, Are A Heirloom Variety From Marmande Lot-et-Garonne Département in South-Western France. Marmande Are Big Beefy Tomatoes That Have Multiple Culinary Uses.
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Marmande tomatoes are an old fleshy type French beefsteak type tomato with few seeds and a good flavour. They are Solanum lycopersicum, so very related to “ordinary” tomatoes and not a specific species in their own right. In fact t it is not a hybrid per se but was apparently developed by selection from traditional tomato varieties.
Marmande are reported to be a Raf type tomato originally grown in Spain and later brought to Marmande. Raf derives from the Spanish term, “resistente al Fusarium” as it was bred to contend with fusarium fungus.
Having a fleshy texture and few seeds makes Marmande toms very good for salsa and salads and I mention a few recipes later in this article.
Marmande are a large fruit, 7-8 times the size of conventional fruit, they often weigh up to 500g (approx 1 lb) or sometimes much more.
In the Marmande region the plant is grown outdoors or under cover, most often polytunnels these days. In Spain the type is widely grown in the south, especially in Almeria around Cabo de Gata and the municipality of Nijar (near where they film the Westerns!).
Marmande Tomatoes: Physical Characteristics / Morphology
The fruit is best described as large and squat with deep furrows in the fruit that end in a flat oval end where it attaches to the stem. It’s not a pretty fruit in my view and is often scarred. The pulp within the fruit is quite firm and juicy with few seeds and is pinkish in colour. to describe it a meaty is not to exaggerate the texture too much.
The sweetness of the fruit is much better in my view when countered with natural acidity. Most tomatoes tolerate high soil conductivity that would kill less hardy plants. But the Marmande type goes a step or two further in its tolerance and can stand hight conductivity levels.
I’m loathe to explain what conductivity means as the explanation is often misconstrued. High conductivity results from high levels of salts in the soil moisture. By this I mean salts in the chemical context and not salt. So please don’t add salt to the soil!
What is Soil Conductivity?
I’m not a chemist so may not have the right words to explain this as well as I would like. Pure water doesn’t conduct electricity. But if the water isn’t absolutely pure it will conduct electricity. The difference between pure and non pure water being the level of “salts” in the water.
Soil conductivity is a measure of the ability of water to conduct electricity. It’s a proxy fro the level of nutrients in the soil available to plants. The “salts” are from the various plant nutrients and if too high many plants will die. It’s why the salts derived from sodium, ie household salt, kills plants.
Soil salts are derived from all the plant nutrients that naturally occur in the soil and are higher in soils such as clays where there can be stored (adsorbed .. not absorbed which is different) more effectively.
I was in Marmande a while back. I went specifically to learn more about Marmande tomatoes as I’ve not grown them for many decades.
I expected to see the tomato feted in the town. But other than seeing a few mugs, tea towels and other tourist trinkets in the tourism office they were conspicuous by their absence.
My second career, after selling my market garden, was in marketing. So, as a marketer, I expected to see Marmande tomatoes sold in the greengrocers and celebrated on the menus of the restaurants. They weren’t! Other than an annual two day festival I found little to evidence the fact they even existed. And when I asked for more details in the Tourism Office they looked at me as if they’d never been asked before!
So here are a few recipes to help the Marmande locals celebrate their delicious tomato.
Marmande Tomato Recipes
Marmande Tomatoes And Cheese
This has to be the simplest and quickest Marmande tomato recipe.
Slice the tomato into rounds, gently season with salt, add slices of cheese and a few leaves of basil or your favourite herb…. eat and enjoy.
Variations on this recipe means you can vary the type of cheese, I like cheddar myself but it isn’t very French. in France I’d add Comte or even a local goat cheese. Others argue that the best cheese to use is halloumi. And some friends add a little olive oil oil even sprinkle a little red wine vinegar over the top. I’ve even seen balsamic added.
In the US chef Ian Knauer suggests a salad of Marmande toms and peaches. You have to taste this dish to really understand how thee two go together.
Knauer also suggests Madame Marmande with cheese.
The simple recipe of to remove the lid of the Marmande, stuff it with a soft cheese (I love goats cheese in this recipe) and grill it.
Here’s the video.
A variation on the recipe is to use parmesan as seen in the next video … though the cook here doesn’t seem to be using a genuine Marmande tomato.
Raymond Blanc has a Marmande tomato recipe which is heavenly. He calls it Tomato Salad Mama Blanc
Here’s the way I make it.
Slice the toms into 5mm slices. Layer in a serving dish and sprinkle a chopped shallot over the top. Season with salt. Leave.
The dressing is a mix of a tbsp of Dijon mustard, a tbsp of wine vinegar (I prefer red myself), a touch of garlic and a splash of warm water. Mix well. Slowly add 3-4 tbsp of your favourite oil whilst whisking.
Add another tbsp of warm water and continue mixing until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper. For an extra twist try freshly ground Szechwan pepper!
Drizzle the dressing over the toms and shallots and leave to marinade for at least an hour.
Just before serving sprinkle herbs over the top. Basil is great but use whatever you prefer.
The ingredient amounts in the dressing don’t need careful measurement. Just do it by eye and intuition and serve it the way you prefer it.
Rick Stein has a great Marmande recipe for a tart with basil and garlic.
My take on it is as follows.
Use bought puff pastry (or make it yourself).
Roll it out to about 5mm thick. Cut a circle of pastry using a plate as a template. Prick with a fork. Chill for 20 mins.
Bake the pastry for about 20 mins in a preheated oven at 200C.
Blend a bunch of fresh basil leaves, a few large garlic cloves, a small peeled tom, 75g of parmesan and 150ml of olive oil. The oil should be added slowly after the other ingredients are blended to a smooth paste until the mixture thickens.
Sprinkle a few tsp of the blended mix over the pastry, add sliced toms so they overlap slightly, season with salt, pepper and a little more oil. Cook for a further 10 minutes.
Sprinkle ripped basil over the top just before you serve it.
There are hundreds of other recipes that include bean and tomato salads, soups, sauces and much more. One of my other favourites is to scoop out the marmande tom, fill with sausage meet or any other burger type mix you prefer, top with cheese and bake until the meat is cooked.
Marmande also work well chopped into couscous with finely sliced red shallots and herbs.
How will you cook or eat your Marmande toms? Please add your recipe to the comments below.
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