We’ve been fortunate enough to have worked with The Tomato Stall on a number of occasions over the last two years. If you didn’t already know, their beautifully-sweet Isle of Wight tomatoes are one of our favourite toppings for our sourdough crispbread and have featured on many of our alfresco summer menus this year.
As fellow purveyors of quality food, we wanted to speak with Manager Director, Paul Thomas about how the business began, how it’s been impacted over the last six months and of course, his favourite Peter’s Yard pairing.
How did The Tomato Stall become the thriving business it is today?
We like to think it’s because we have always put flavour and quality first. We also have a direct connection to our customers on a weekly basis at the numerous farmers markets we attend. This is where we get valuable feedback that has helped shape our business and range over the years. Also, by innovating and growing new interesting varieties every year, we can excite and educate people on how to get the best out of tomatoes and perhaps discover new favourites. That differentiation sets us apart from the crowd and continues to earn us a loyalty and appreciation from our customers that we are very proud to have.
Tell us about the different varieties of tomatoes you grow?
We have around 200 types of tomato, so quite a few! This year we have had some interesting varieties such as bright green baby plum. Looking at it, you wouldn’t expect it to have any sweetness and to be quite tart, but it does. Also, we have a fantastic selection of beef varieties such as Monterosa, a pink fruity variety and we’re even experimenting with a white beef type in our trial nursery this year. Probably our most popular variety is the Arreton Jewel, a full-flavoured and rich plum vine which gives any cherry tomato a run for its money on sweetness and taste.
How has the business been adapting during COVID-19?
The team have been working hard to find new ways to reach people, particularly for home deliveries at a time where movements have been largely restricted due to COVID-19. Our summers would have usually been filled working with foodservice customers, as well as independent retailers all over the country. Due to the pandemic it’s obviously made this impossible for some so we had a look at what we could do differently. In March we started a subscription service so customers could have freshly delivered boxes of tomatoes delivered to their homes direct from our nursery. Making the switch to do this on a large scale wasn’t easy but I’m pleased to say we have found our feet and our customers are really enjoying this new service.
What was it like to have Jamie Oliver using your products on social media?
It was the highlight of the year so far! We had previously worked with Jamie in several ways, initially supplying tomatoes via our stall at Borough Market and then later hosting annual trips for the students of Fifteen. It was extremely touching that he remembered that connection and gave us such a great endorsement on Instagram.
If you could think of one IOW recipe pairing to go with our PY crispbread, what would it be?
Perhaps too simple for some, but you can’t go wrong with a Peter’s Yard Original sourdough crispbread, a luxurious cream cheese (Paysan Breton’s with sea salt is a favourite) and a large slice of golden Isle of Wight beef tomato. It has texture, flavour, and feels a bit decadent for lunch in a good way!