Pink Barbastro tomatoes are in fashion, and that’s because the Asociación de Hortelanos de Barbastro (Barbastro Market Gardeners’ Association) has applied to the Government of Aragon for protection and marketing of this form of produce through the C for Food Quality (Calial) label.
More than just being fatter tomatoes, these have a thinner skin (skin being the biggest obstacle to the gastronomic use of any tomato), are less acidic, the most delicate and aromatic, the most compact and full of pulp, and with fewer seeds. Barbastro’s market gardens have formed a legendary space since the 9th century when our Arab friends brought irrigation to the lower course of the River Vero by means of a dam. The term Arab friends is meant intentionally because the legendary status of Spanish market gardens gained an exceptional amount from Moorish farmers.
Incidentally, according to the French historian H, Lapeyre, the Moriscos (Moors who converted to Christianity after the Christian reconquest) of Barbastro were not included in the expulsion of these peoples from Spain in 1609, which could be closely related to the town’s subsequent development market gardens, and perhaps indirectly to the development of the pink tomato.
It may be of interest to note that their expulsion plunged Spain into one of the deepest recessions recorded in its history. This all seems to indicate that since ancient times we have been living in a country immune to good government.
However, the tomato was cultivated until many years after the discovery of America, and, with or without Moriscos, Barbastro has always had a long line of excellent market gardeners, who were the creators of this miracle of selection and environmental adaptation. In fact, the tomato (Lycopersicum escullentum) is a fruit of Andean origin that was grown by the Aztecs.
If you Google it, you will find a multitude of results related to pink tomatoes in Costa Rica, Chile and other Latin American countries, even in the United States. This makes us suspect that the pink tomato variety was introduced from the Americas. There are currently many references to pink tomatoes in Spain, from the Aracena mountains in the province of Huelva, from Seville and Valencia, and from many parts of Aragon.
The agronomist Miguel Carravedo makes reference in his book Variedades autóctonas de tomates de Aragón (Native Tomato Varieties in Aragon) to places where pink tomatoes are grown: Zaragoza, Monzalbarba, La Fueva, Triste and Barbastro, among others. Page 84 of this book gives the author’s summary of the characteristics of the pink tomato of Barbastro with a distinguished gastronomic observation that is given without additional commentaries: “a tomato of enormous quality”.
Warm pink with grated cheese.
But we live in a time of gastronomic sophistication and are loyal to it. The traditional dish full of pink tomato slices floating in olive oil accompanied by a Fuentes onion skin and a slice of pork loin has given way to fusions, to perfumes and to desconstruction of delicacies, regardless of how wonderful they were in their original state. If you aren’t reticent about novelties, try getting away from the dullness of everyday things with the following suggestion: Cut a medium-sized pink tomato into circular slices (never wedges) and arrange three or four of them on a plate.
Don’t be sparing with the olive oil and season with a few Maldon salt flakes.
Take both ends of the tomato and once you’ve removed the woody centre, cut them into small cubes. Do the same with a Fuentes onion skin. Season this mixture with basil, a little salt and sprinkle a teaspoonful of grated parmesan cheese over it.
Heat this mixture for a minute in the microwave (medium power) and finish by placing a spoonful of the warm mixture over the pink tomato slices that should remain cool.
A little advice – don’t let the wine warm up; this is a summer dish.