Sometimes you come across a tomato so perfect – bright red the whole way through, flesh taut and almost seedless –   that you know it needs nothing other than a little salt and pepper and olive oil. On a plate, knife and fork, just that.

Heather Armstrong’s tomatoes are shining examples of this and there’s no better evidence than the never-ending line of customers queuing in front of her stall. She’s back after the customary winter break, and clearly much missed. Bulgy bulbous Bulgarian beefsteaks; cherry tomatoes in yellow, gold and red, black and yellow beauties – but there are also glossy new zucchini and baby cucumbers. The Eftpos machine is down this morning but that doesn’t prevent Heather from juggling cash, conversation, scales, warm banter and answering my scattered questions. I want to know about green tomatoes: is there a specific breed? ‘There is a Spanish breed we used to grow – and we tried to grow a Mexican one but it was a failure’, she tells me. ‘All tomatoes start off green and for special orders we pick them green.’ I’ll never forget a glorious gratin of green tomatoes I ate once in Italy, rich with bubbling cheesey cream, and of course there’s the famous Fried Green Tomatoes, but apparently, Heather says, a lot of people use them for pickling.

One woman hands over two huge beefsteaks for weighing, her face gleaming with joy. ‘My mum used to grow tomatoes like these!’ she says. ‘She used to get the seeds from Macedonia, where she’s from.’ Heather will always welcome seeds from customers. ‘We’re willing to grow them and see how they go’, she says.

My step-son just ate one whole!” exclaims another customer – and that’s it: Heather’s beautiful tomatoes, in reality, do not need a single thing other than your own teeth to sink into that sweet flesh. 

Coopers Shoot Tomatoes is at New Brighton every Tuesday from 8 – 11am and st Mullum Farmers Market every Friday from 8am-11am. 

Victoria Cosford