Saturday, March 17, 2018

Tomate – Tomato. France’s Greatest Tomato, the Tomate de Marmande AOC. The Tomato in French Cuisine.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman

Choose your tomato.

The tomato’s origins are South American and they were brought to Europe by returning Conquistadors but probably not until fifty years after Columbus. Then, for the next one hundred and fifty years, tomatoes were considered a decorative plant with their fruit treated as poisonous. (Poisonous tomatoes resurfaced when I went to school, and they were served burnt and dried at school lunches).  Then in the 1700s, there were famines all over Europe and a consequent search for a broader range of foods less susceptible to pests and disease.  
The Killiney Obelisk [1740-1741] Famine Memorial.
This Irish famine was proportionately more devastating
than the great potato famine of 1845-1852
This was the time that Parmentier brought the potato into French homes and other New World imports like maize were taking over the French countryside. The surge in experimentation with vegetables, legumes, and grains also saw tomatoes reaching the markets.  Then fast forward to the 1890s when the growers around the town of Marmande began the work that nearly one hundred years later would produce France’s magnificent and ambrosial AOC Marmande tomato. The Marmande tomato is large, flavorsome and aromatic with many weighing over 250 grams (9 ounces).
What Would the World’s Dining Tables Look Like Without the Tomato?

The world’s tables would look and taste very differently without the tomato. Italy would have no pizza Margherita or spaghetti alla Pomodoro, the USA would have no Bloody Mary’s or Campbell’s tomato soup, Spain would have no gazpacho, and around the world, children would be refusing to eat 90% of the dishes put in from of them as there would be no tomato ketchup.
Tomato-free pizza
French cuisine would be in serious trouble with Provencal cuisine having no Ratatouille, and  Basque cuisine having no Piperade.  More importantly for French cuisine, Carême and Escoffier’s rules would be thrown into confusion as there would be no Sauce Tomate. Sauce Tomat, tomato sauce, is one of French cuisine's five "mother" sauces.
However, we do have tomatoes so all is well, and they come in a wide range of shapes and colors from white through golden yellow and on through all the shades of reds and purples so dark that they are nearly black.
Choose by color
The tomato on French Menus:
Carpaccio de Tomates aux Copeaux de Parmesan et Jambon Cru – Replacing the paper-thin raw beef in the Carpaccio are thinly sliced fresh tomatoes flavored with lemon juice, olive oil, herbs, and pepper.  All served with shavings of Parmesan cheese and thinly sliced cured ham. 
Soupe de Tomate Glacée au Basilic – Chilled tomato soup flavored and glazed with basil. 
Sole Duglére  - The chef Adolphe Dugléré’s classic dish of sole poached in the oven with the white wine, tomatoes, and crème fraîche.  
Tomates à la Provençal – Tomatoes prepared in the manner of Provence. Tomato halves covered and or stuffed with breadcrumbs, parsley, garlic, basil and olive oil and baked in the oven.

Marmande and the Tomates de Marmande AOC/AOP
The Marmande tomato.
The town of Marmande is in the department of Lot-et-Garonne in the new super region of Nouvelle Aquitaine. The Marmande tomato is a French tomato and therefore has, of course, a romantic story behind it.  A shy young man Peyrot Bory travels to South America to seek his fortune and there he is given a tomato by Native American Indians. When he returns to France, he presents his chosen Ferline Giraudeau the tomato, and she falls madly in love with him.  In Marmande, they tell you that this story is the source of the tomato’s other French name the Pomme d’Amour, the love apple.  This love apple would then be developed by Pierre Gautriaud, a farmer in Marmande who began growing his tomatoes on canes, where previously they had been left to grow on the ground. With Gautriaud’s work and continued natural selection, the local farmers created the large and tasty fruit that are today’s Marmande Tomato AOP.
A bronze of Ferline Giraudeau with the love apple

Not just in the town of Marmande, but all over France when a chef is using Marmande tomatoes their name will be on the menu. These will be simple recipes where you can clearly taste this unique tomato,

Marmande tomatoes on French Menus:
Crème de Tomates de Marmande – Cream of tomato soup made with Marmande tomatoes.
Jus de Tomate de Marmande –  Marmande tomato juice.
Marmande tomato juice
Tartare de Tomate de Marmande au Magret de Canard Fumé -Tartar of Marmande tomatoes prepared with smoked duck breast.  
Fête de la Tomate, Marmande

The town has a Fête de la Tomate, Marmande, a Marmande tomato festival.  It is an important fete culturally, economically,  and gastronomically and lasts three days beginning on the third Friday in July.  

The fete’s website is in French only but easily understood with the Google and Bing translation apps:

For the Marmande town hall will need to click on one of the apps again as it also has a French only website:
Protecting the Marmande tomato’s good name are the Chevaliers de la Confrérie de la Pomme d'Amour à Marmand, the knights of the brotherhood and sisterhood of the love apple of Marmande.  Do not come into Marmande with boxes of imported tomato juice or these knights will be on your case.
The Knights of the brotherhood and sisterhood of the Love apple of Marmande.
Apart from the popular round and ridged tomatoes similar to the Marmande in the markets, you will see the following labels: 
Tomate-Cerise –  The cherry tomato.  These are small tomatoes, the size of large cherries.
Tomate Grappe – Grape or cluster tomatoes; those are regular round shaped tomatoes that are sold in groups still attached to the vine.
Tomate Oblongue, Allongée or Tomate Italienne  - The oval-shaped Italian cooking tomato.
Tomate Roma or Tomate Olivette – Small oval tomatoes; similar to the size of cherry tomatoes.
Tomate Roma

The Côtes du Marmandais AOC
The grapes for the Côtes du Marmandais AOC are grown around the town.  You may enjoy their red, white, and rosé wines made using many of the same grapes as their neighbors in the department of Garonne where all the Bordeaux wines come from.  Marmande has a two-day wine festival; the Festi Vino held on two days beginning with the last Saturday in July.
Chateau Soubiran, Côtes du Marmandaise

Marmande's Festi Vino French language website is:

Fête des Fleurs et des Saveurs. Marmande
The Fête des Fleurs et des Saveurs. Marmande, the fete of the flowers, scents, and tastes is held on the third Saturday and Sunday in May. There are many excellent fruits and vegetables grown in the area, and May is the middle of their strawberry and flower season.

As may now be expected, this fete also has a French language only website:
If the tomatoes and wines and other celebrations are not enough, all around are chateaus and castles. Just down the road is Agen, some 70 km (44 miles) away, it is a lovely walkable town and hold the gold standard for its prunes,  Bordeaux with its fantastic cuisine and wines is just 80 km (50miles) away.

Connected Posts:
AOP/ AOC, IGP and Vin de France. New Labels on French Wines.

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Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu.
Copyright 2010, 2018.

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