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Tomatoes and Pa amb Oli

This morning my mini tomatoe garden offered me a surprsie: the first tomatigó´ s also known as tomátiga de ramallet,  have been born. In traditional Mallorquin cuisine, the tomatoe is an everpresent fruit and there are thousands of dishes prepared with it. Starting from pa amb oli and going through tumbet, vegetable cake (coca de trampó), or the fresh and crunchy trampó salad, all of them created with recepies that have been passed on from generation to generation and that ultimately reflect the influence of the civilizations that have inhabited these lands throughout history. The ramallet tomatoe (literally branched tomatoe) is undoubtedly the jewel of the crown in Mallorquin cuisine. As a local variety not found elsewhere, both its flavour and properties make of it a unique species of tomatoe. (See blog picture). It can grow in very dry atmospheres and is bunched up in little branches that you will see hanging from the walls of most Mallorquin kitchens. It offers a very intense flavour ideal for a proper pa amb oli, a simple dish made out of local bread (pan payés or peasant´s bread), ramallet tomatoe, olive oil -preferably virgin olive oil-(more intense in flavour) and a pinch of salt. The tomatoe is scrubbed onto the loaf of bread and then bathed in olive oil and sprinkled with salt . It can then be combined with ham, cheese, olives, tapers and other extras that simply will enhance it´s simple but intense flavour.

The writer Thomas Graves dedicated a whole book to this dish “volem pa amb oli” (translated as Bread and Oil), a kind of compedium that pays homage to the dish and simultaneously reflects what kind of people locals are. An ideal book to read during those long Summer months. To me, the dish pa amb oli is basically a synthesis of the most elmentary Mallorquin products: a combination of farm baked bread that comes from the pla de Mallorca (Mallorca plain area) with liquid gold (oil)  that comes from the silver coloured olive trees that grow in the mountains, authentic sea salt flakes and branched tomatoe that comes from the local agricultural produce. What a delicacy!! Such is the passion that locals have for this variety of tomatoe that in 2008 the Balearic Islands Univeristy developed a Project to preserve its genetics, conserving vacuum packed seeds of pure ramallet tomatoes so that they would not get mixed with other species and therefore would conserve its purity. In addition to this, the university experts studied its chemical composition to discover the secret to its conservation qualities. It is said that a ramallet tomatoe can last for up to 6 months hanging on to its hand-made branch without loosing its flavour nor any of its properties, and needless to say, without any preservatives or colourings added. Moreover, it is known that this type of tomatoe loves sun and dryness and thus, doesn´t need much water to grow. This essentialy makes this fruit a genuine survivor. To end this post, I would like to quote a short fragment of this fabulous book by Thomas precisely on the virtues of this dish: One day, a restless young fellow pays a visit to a wise hermit. When the fellow arrives to the cave where the hermit lives, the wise man invites him to share his silence, and during more than a year they both live on a simple diet based on “pa amb oli”.  One day, the wise man, considering that the young fellow is ready, decides to break the silence and asks him, “what is it that you wish?”  The young man asks “what is life, teacher?”  The wise man, after taking a deep breath, proclaims the great secret: “Life is one pa amb oli after another”.