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Solar greenhouses in southern Spain, cradle of gourmet tomatoes 

False belief on tomatoes from solar greenhouses

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Of the hundreds of varieties of tomatoes on the market, only a few have earned their rightful place on the gastronomic Olympus.  

And, curiously, although for years there has been a false belief that tomatoes grown in greenhouses do not taste of anything, the truth is that the most gourmet and appreciated varieties of tomatoes on the market are produced under these structures.  


Several years ago, the sector opted for diversification as a formula to revalue tomatoes, which has meant, in some cases, sacrificing quantity for quality. In this way, the solar greenhouses in the south of Spain, located in the provinces of Almeria and Granada, boast of producing some of the most exquisite varieties that are valued not only by consumers but also by great chefs such as Ferrán Adriá, Rodrigo de la Calle or the Torres brothers.    


The salinity of the water used for irrigation, the protection offered by the roofs to combat inclement weather, the heat stress caused by the difference between high and low temperatures on the same day, the use of biological control instead of phytosanitary products to combat pests and the experienced hands of the farmers, have made it possible for tomatoes grown in the solar greenhouses of southern Spain to become the paradigm of premium agriculture.  


From a genuine deep red to a wide variety of colours 

Agriculture, like any other sector, also innovates, especially when it comes to captivating the most select palates. For this reason, tomato growers in the solar greenhouses of southern Spain have opted for very select varieties which, as well as having an exquisite and intense flavour, provide a new chromatism to achieve dishes that are not only more attractive to the taste, but also to the eye.  


Thus, some of the most gourmet varieties on the market have gone from the traditional and genuine red colour to other shades such as green, pink, blue, chocolate brown or even orange and yellow, as is the case of some cherry tomatoes.   


Premium varieties grown in greenhouses 

RAF tomato: considered as the king of tomatoes, this variety is characterised by having an exquisite balance between sweetness and acidity, an intense aroma and a powerful flavour obtained thanks to a high level of brix degrees, nutrients and amino acids. Although its production runs from November to May; the months of December, January and February are the best months for the consumption of RAF tomatoes.  


As with all gourmet products, the RAF has also had imitators, so to distinguish the genuine from the copy, the consumer must pay attention to several aspects. The colour varies from green to red - depending on the degree of maturation - with characteristic dark green brushstrokes always present in the upper part. Ripening takes place from the inside out, so it can be eaten even when it is green on the outside. It has an irregular appearance with deep grooves that end in the centre, oval in shape and flattened at the ends. The third indicator of whether we are dealing with a genuine RAF is the price, which ranges between 7 and 10 euros/kg, so if the cost is lower, be wary. 


Blue tomato: this variety, also known as purple tomato, has its origin in the United States. It has a high content of anthocyanins, a natural antioxidant that is concentrated in the skin of some fruits -such as grapes, blueberries or blackberries- and which is responsible for the purple colour. But the surprise is not so much on the outside as on the inside, as the flesh retains the traditional reddish colour of tomatoes.  


This variety is characterised by its fruity flavour, its skin is thinner than that of other tomatoes, its flesh is very juicy and has hardly any seeds and, when cut, it gives off an intense tomato aroma. Its price is in the range of high-end tomatoes, although its cost is lower than that of the RAF. 


Pink tomato: apart from its pinkish colour, this tomato is distinguished by its large size, very thin skin and very fleshy interior. In addition, it has fewer seeds and less water than the rest of the tomatoes, which makes it much more profitable. Its flavour is also intense, as is its aroma. 


Chocolate tomato: this variety has a dark green to brown colour. They are sweeter than the usual tomatoes and have slightly acidic notes. Their interior is very juicy and has a firm and crunchy texture. 


Cherry tomatoes: another delicatessen of this vegetable are the cherry tomatoes, that receive this name because they are similar in size to cherries. These small tomatoes have many varieties, since they have several shapes (oval or round), colours (yellow, orange, red and chocolate) and sizes. They can be sold with or without the branch. In addition to its size, this tomato has a very sweet and crunchy taste, making it ideal for appetizers and salads. Moreover, its small size is very attractive for children, so it is easier to introduce it in their diet.  


Simple tasting 

Although they can be cooked with any of these varieties, which will give the recipes a spectacular finish, the flavour of these tomatoes is so intense that the best way to enjoy them is in their natural state, cut into wedges, with a pinch of salt and a dash of EVOO.  


To preserve their full flavour, they should be kept at room temperature because if they are kept in the refrigerator, as is usually thought, they lose their organoleptic qualities.  


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