Thursday, 24 March 2011

Tomatoes: roll call (part 1)

It's my grandfather's birthday. He lives next door to me (semi detached houses), which I know is unusual. Back in the 80s and 90s, our family ruled this street - my parents, brother and sister and me lived here, my grandparents next door, and my great-grandmother next door to them.

Sadly now there's just two of us. My great-grandmother moved to another part of town (she died a few years ago, aged 101), my siblings moved out, then my parents, and my grandmother died last year. So it's much quieter, and a little lonely at times. To be fair, I like my own company most of the time, and my uncle and his wife visit next door every day (and lots of other family members come to stay at both houses quite often), so it's not so bad.

Anyway, I've been rather busy, baking a madeira cake, buying flowers, copying a video of my sister in a school show (in 1987!) as well as doing my own chores, but I have a moment now while I'm waiting for the dvd to finish, and I've been meaning to talk a little more about tomatoes (you may wish to stop reading - I'm sure most people don't find them as interesting as I do).

In fact, if it wasn't for my grandfather, I probably wouldn't be growing tomatoes at all. He always did, last year being an understandable exception, and in fact back in the mid-20th century had his own commercial greenhouse for a time. Back then, my home town was renound (at least regionally) for its tomatoes, and plenty of other produce, as its rich, peaty soil hosted a substantial market gardening industry. That's mostly gone now, though local raspberries and tomatoes can still be found in the summer months. Anyway, I always found tomatoes a little scary - too much work, in my imagination, to dare grow myself. But he never seemed to have a problem, although a small greenhouse helped. A couple of years ago I took the plunge, and although mine were outside, I had a fine crop. Last year I didn't grow from seed, but plants I bought and was given gave me enough to show me it wasn't really that hard after all.

Below I will, following the lead of Tomato Lover, give a run down of the varieties I'm hoping to grow in some detail, and then estimate the dates when I should be picking them. If nothing else, it will be useful to look back in 6 months' time and see how accurate the stats I'm relying on are (such as average final frost date, and days to harvest), and how long I can keep the crop going (I started later the past two years, but I was harvesting right into November).

Black Cherry
photo by Peppysis
A dark cherry tomato, unsurprisingly. I've read good things by people who have grown this, both in the UK and the US (where it originates). Up to a dozen fruits per truss, 65-70 days after planting. Indeterminate.

Costoluto Fiorentino

A big, red, ribbed beefsteak tomato from Italy. I suppose I'm taking a chance with this, as it will probably want warmer, sunnier weather than I can reliably provide. However, it can be grown in the UK, apparently. Tall plants, producing 75-80 days after planting. Indeterminate.

Cream Sausage
photo by swanksalot
I had to grow this, it's so unusual-looking! Plum-types (of which this is a particularly elongated example) growing in trusses of half a dozen or more. Pale creamy-yellow, recommended for drying (something I definitely want to try). 80-85 days. Determinate.

Gardener's Delight
The classic red cherry tomato. As I said in a previous post, these seeds came from a magazine - I wouldn't normally choose to grow such a mainstream type. Having said that, everyone who has grown it recommends both the flavour, cropping, and disease resistance. So, rather than cliché, it's a classic. Indeterminate. 65-75 days.

Great White
It's a shame I couldn't find a usable picture of this, as it's a really stunning variety. Huge, lightly ribbed creamy fruit, a little darker (yellow/green) around the shoulders, often weighing more than half a kilo each. Extremely tall indeterminate plants, fruiting after 80-85 days.

Green Zebra
photo by emkeller
I bought these seeds last year, and if I hadn't, I wouldn't be growing it now. Having read a lot about these, they sound like trouble. Striking they may be - pretty even - but they will only ripen under cover in this country, and are apparently prone to disease. I don't have as much of a problem with the colouring as some, but the killer for me is that it's quite a recent variety (developed in the mid-80s). Indeterminate. 75-85 days.

Jaune Flammée
These, on the other hand, I am very excited about. Lovely, round, bright orange fruits, borne in trusses of up to a dozen, with a flavour described as "spicy". Not too unusual to scare people off, but different enough to feel special.

Huge thanks for much of the information in this post and the next one to Passion Tomates, whose database of tomato varieties is second to none (lucky I speak French!).

The remaining varieties will be reviewed in the next entry...

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