Tomatoes are heat-lovers. They are at their prime around now, deep into the summer months. Supermarkets and grocers will typically have a colourful spread of different varieties on the shelves at this time of year, and I rarely return from my weekly food shop without a few punnets of them.
Simply sliced, arranged on a plate, drizzled with olive oil and then generously sprinkled with sea salt will result in an excellent tomato salad. In the middle of the season when they are at peak sweetness and juiciness, this could be an excellent side dish to a piece of grilled fish or a steak, for example, but could also lay the foundations for something more interesting. Sometimes I'll make a smashed basil dressing, a sort of pesto, and drizzle it over the tomatoes, or sprinkle with chopped herbs. Last summer I combined the tomatoes with some wild foraged sorrel to make a uniquely delicious salad. This summer, however, I was compelled to do something with flowers.
Enter rosebay willowherb
The vibrant pink flowers of rosebay willowherb seem to be ubiquitous at this time of year, covering grass verges, railway lines and the fringes of woodland all over the country. These attractive pink flowers are more than just roadside decoration though, they are edible, too. In fact, rosebay willowherb boasts a number of uses, and the Russians historically fermented it to make tea.
The pink flowers provided the perfect accompaniment to my tomato salad, providing a splash of vibrant summery pink. I was on the lookout for more summer petals to add to the plate and found some blackberry flowers from the hedgerow. I just got them in time; the flowering season for blackberries was almost over, with most of them at the fruiting stage now. Adding flowers to a plate of food is a sure way to make your dish shout "summer!", and they bring a floral sweetness, too.
I didn't write a formal recipe for this one. It's as simple as slicing the tomatoes, seasoning with salt and pepper, drizzling with olive oil and adding flowers. For a bit of colour contrast, try adding some baby gem lettuce as I've done here.