Wednesday 20 February 2008

I say tomato


We've had two terrible years for tomatoes. The picture above was taken in 2005 and represents a fair cross section of the sorts of tomatoes we like to grow and until recently thought were easy crops to achieve.

2006 and 2007 were blighted, literally, although the weather in either year didn't help and moving our cropping area from the allotments in Newport Pagnell to the farm was bound to hold us back for a season in 2006.

I'm going to try again and these are, I think, the varieties I'm going to make the attempt with;

Potiron Encarlote, the large fruit to the left of the photo, has a wonderful flavour and the huge tomatoes are perfect for those summer salads that with a piece of bread are a meal in themselves. They are tall growing and need good support and I have only ever grown them in a greenhouse so it may be a challenge finding a sheltered enough spot in France to get a crop but I think it will be worth the effort.

For several years we have grown a heritage variety Salt Spring Sunrise. I was originally drawn to this because of a reputed resistance to blight. It's not particularly blight resistant but is an excellent bush tomato that will crop early and well outside. The fruit isn't brilliant for salads unless picked just ripe and warmed by the sun but makes excellent passata and ketchup. This is in the picture above on the extreme right hand side.

Well, I say I'm going to grow SSS but I can't at this moment find the seeds. My seed storage is in a real mess and I need to sort that out. If I can't find the packet I put away last year I will have to use Marmande, that old standby. Better flavoured than SSS but not so reliable in a bad summer.

One tomato that did do well last year in indifferent conditions was another heritage variety called Scottish Yellow. Unfortunately that seed seems to be in the same place as the SSS and so I will probably have to use Golden Sunrise which is wonderfully sweet flavoured and is the yellow tomato in the picture.

Tempted as I am by the fancier coloured varieties, the Black Prince, the Striped Stuffer and Evergreen, a large tomato that never reddens but is nicest when it's a fresh green, I might give them a miss if time gets short.

We will try some plum tomatoes, San Marzano is a well known variety but a good selection of Roma will taste nearly as good and we've found them slightly hardier. The plums all seem to crop rather late, not a problem with the longer summers we've been having but often they have succumbed to the blight before the fruit is mature which is always disappointing.

Better go and search out those seeds.

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