Monday 24 August 2015

Tomato Test and Taste

Clibrans growing
Clibran's Victory growing outside in the back garden.  

I grew six varieties of tomatoes this year, in four different locations; in the greenhouse, in the ground on the main plot, in the back garden and in pots outside the back door. It makes for a complicated assessment task when it comes to quantifying success.

Covering the locations first, the greenhouse has the advantage of protection from blight, warmer temperatures and hence faster growth and a more controlled environment generally which allows for regular maintenance and care in more comfortable conditions. The disadvantages include wildly varying daytime temperatures, the need for constant watering and the requirement for regular maintenance and care if the greenhouse is to remain usable for other things as well.

The tomatoes in the main plot were intended to stay under a poly row cover to provide warmth and keep the blight spores from landing on the leaves but they quickly outgrew their allowance and the cover had to be removed. The plants have succumbed to blight and we have a lot of green tomato chutney as a result.

Which makes it even more mysterious that the plants grown in the open in the back garden are, at the time of writing, blight free and healthy. I have a theory about this; at the time of planting I mulched around them with grass cuttings which have formed an impenetrable cover over the soil. Perhaps it is this which has prevented the soil splashing up and infecting the plants. These plants aren't very vigorous though and will have small crops.

Finally the potted plants in the lee of the house and protected to an extent from the rain by the eaves are also blight free but as they're in the shade they are very much behind all the other plants, more leafy than fruity.

gbk wladecks harrys
Gezahnte Bührer-Keel, Harry's Plum and Wladecks from the greenhouse.

I grow GBK nearly every year but Harry's Plum and Wladecks were both new to me. The Wladecks, from the Heritage Seed Library, grew well but the fruit is so large you need excellent staking and regular watering and will still only get a few fruit per plant. They're really big though so this doesn't matter a lot.

Plum tomatoes are valuable commodities in this house and I'm looking for a favourite. Harry's are good but perhaps still not the one. They grow well in greenhouse conditions but are greedy for food and water and maybe would be better grown outdoors in a nicer climate. They are tall vining types and need to be well supported. In the very hot greenhouse I found the first few fruits got blossom end rot, now the temperatures are a bit more equable this is less of a problem. Outside plants are looking fine but no ripe fruit yet. Soon I hope.

The GBK aren't great tomatoes for my conditions and dedication to the task. They get blossom end rot more often than not even if other varieties are happy - I think they just don't like it too hot but on the other hand, they don't like it outdoors much either. This year I only had 4 plants and kept them all under cover.

surrenders clibrans
Surrender's Curry and Clibran's Victory.

Surrender's Curry is a bush tomato. It grew well and quickly in the greenhouse, so much so it's now pretty much finished. I didn't thin as much as perhaps I should have done and they set many fruits which are rather small. Growing outside, lots of leaves, fewer fruit.

Clibran's Victory is another one from HSL. I don't know what I was expecting but it's a very ordinary tomato. Having said that it grew reasonably easily, didn't get blossom end rot and set some nice fruit. Outside it's pictured at the top here. Needs better staking but seems to be coping with drought and flood equally well.

tondino di manduria
Tondino di Manduria showing a little blight damage.

The Tondino di Manduria was a bonus packet from Kokopelli ages ago. I really like them and they grow well and quickly outdoors, better than in a hot greenhouse, but are susceptible to blight and all four outdoor plants have given up the ghost. I had about 5 gallons of green fruit from them so it should have been a bumper harvest. The plum shaped fruit are small, 4 or 5 cm long but have a good flavour. I'll keep trying.

Gezahnte Bührer-Keel 2011 Paul took this
Large Gezahnte Bührer-Keel cut open (picture taken in 2011).

The GBK aren't great eating. They are dryish, nearly hollow with little pulp and few seeds. Perhaps they could be described as a stuffing tomato. I grow them from sentiment as much as anything but until now I've had packet seed. Trying to find enough seed inside them to save is actually quite difficult but I don't need many.

surrenders clibrans cut
Surrender's Curry and Clibran's Victory cut open.  

The Surrender's were an impulse buy. I like tomato curries very much and the description of a more acid flavour tempted me. They are o.k, not badly flavoured, but the skin is tough. I think they might make drying tomatoes and I'm going to try this with the few I've got left.

The Clibran's Victory are, well, just nice. I don't what Clibran was fighting against, these are fine and dandy tomatoes but nothing special by most standards. On the other hand it's quite an old variety and perhaps things were different then.

harrys plum cut
Harry's plum in slices, that's a 7" cooks knife for scale.

In the kitchen the nice large fruit of Harry's Plum are useful and the texture and flavour perfectly acceptable in a salad if you don't want to cook with them. I can see them bottled but that's a topic I'm not very good with. Be great to be able to stop buying all those tins from the supermarket each winter though.

Finally the Wladecks. These are from the stable of great big tomatoes, one slice to a sandwich territory and excellent examples of it. I'm not sure they are better than my all time favourites Potiron Encarlate  (seems I've been mispelling this for a while too) as they seem just a little mushy and soft when fully ripe but we've been enjoying them very much and I'd grow them again.. Take scissors when you go to harvest, unlike most tomatoes they don't part easily from the vine and you can damage the plant by tugging too hard.

wladecks cut
Wladeck's, a really fine beefsteak type.  

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