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Sungold 2

Sungold tomato

I was chatting to fellow tomato enthusiasts recently and as we nattered on about favourite varieties, I was surprised to hear that they found ‘Sungold’ (above) too sweet. Too sweet! In my book a tomato that is too sweet doesn’t exist, but this very same reaction was elicited from a buyer at a large seed company soon afterwards. Well I never!

Said buyer said that his current favourite was ‘Rosella’, another gorgeous looking cherry tomato, but reddish with hints of black, so now I plan to grow this variety in order to compare the two. In fact, I’m planning on growing 9 different varieties, some old favourites and some gorgeous looking new (to me) varieties to find out which varieties I enjoy the most.

Now I don’t have a vast amount of space to grow in, and I want to go a bit wild with lettuces this year (more posts to come on this subject), but the taste, texture (and smell) of home-grown tomatoes is wonderful, miles better than fruits bought in the shops, and growing your own offers a far wider choice of varieties to eat too!

This year I have also purchased a rather lovely greenhouse (first one ever), which will hopefully give me a little more scope with my tomato growing experiments.

Black Krim tomatoes

Black Krim tomato-Gorgeously knarly.

So this summer I shall be growing:

  • ‘Sungold’ , top pic, which never disappoints!
  • ‘Rosella’-thoses hints of black do look tasty
  • ‘Indigo Blue Berries’ from Nicky’s Nursery. Nicky says that these ‘just pop in your mouth and explode with flavour’ and I’m still searching for a delicious black tomato which tastes as good as it looks..
  • ‘Black Krim’ , above, which ripened surprisingly well when grown outdoors and produced huge brutes of a fruit with a meaty texture and a great flavour. What’s not to love!
  • ‘Ananas Noir’ Another beast of a tomato, my favourite from the selection I  tasted at the  Chateau de la Bourdaisiere in the Loire a couple of summers ago, and the cook’s favourite out of the 630 varieties that they grow! Yes, 630!  Now that I can give it some heat in my greenhouse, hopefully I’ll get a good and tasty crop!
  • ‘Sweet aperitif’ A bright red sweet cheery tomato recommended  by Michael Perry at Thomson and Morgan
  • ‘Gardeners Delight’ An old faithful and very reliable cropper of red cherry tomatoes and a good bench mark for the rest of the cherries.
  • ‘Gold Crown’ A sweet and tasty yellow cherry tomato from Sea Spring Seeds
  • Green Envy’ Emerald green small oval fruits, also from Sea Spring Seeds. Can’t wait to taste these.
Indigo Rose tomatoes close

Indigo Rose tomato

I have to admit to being a sucker for good looks when it comes to a vegetable. Who wouldn’t want a salad bowl full of exciting colours and shapes as well as great tastes.  Last year I was seduced by ‘Indigo Rose’. For months it provoked admiring comments from all who passed by as it grew and ripened in my front garden. Sadly, after such wonderful promise, it really came up short on taste, as well as having a mushy texture, and although Michelle at Veg Plotting did say that it made a good tomato sauce, I’m not tempted to grow it again with such limited growing space and so many other exciting varieties out there to try.

Certainly the trend for black tomatoes is strong and Nicky from Nicky’s Nursery says that her top sellers at the moment are ‘Black Cherry and ‘Black opal’ as well as ‘Rosada’ (baby red plum), ‘Sungold’ and ‘Black Krim’. In the past I’ve found that small cherry tomatoes ripen best when outdoor growing has been my only option and I’m going to grow a few varieties indoors and out to see if there’s a great difference in taste.

Tomatoes at Great Dixter

When I’ve holidayed in the Loire over the last few summers, it’s always been a real treat to eat/gorge myself on tomatoes  (I particularly enjoyed almost crunchy, sweet green tomatoes last time I was there), but I know I can never match such warm growing conditions, so closer to home, it’s always worthwhile seeking out local nurseries who hold tasting days at the end of summer. A visit to Victoriana Nursery back in 2011 (in Ashford in kent) was a great way to find out which varieties I might like to grow, and they’ll be holding a tomato open day agin this year on 15th August (with over 80 varieties to try and some new blight resistant varieties too).

Now I haven’t mentioned blight-resistant varieties on my list, as I’ve found when grown in the ground, plants are healthy and vigorous and have not succumbed to this crushingly frustrating disease. I grow in zone 2 in London, and fellow enthusiasts (who live in more rural settings and have had their fair share of blight) are convinced that it’s the pollution of city growing that keeps the blight at bay. Interesting. I need to research this more, but neither my potatoes or tomatoes have suffered in recent years.

In the meantime, I shall be experimenting away, and looking forward to filling my salad bowl with delicious and handsome fruits come August and September.

P.S I had a really fun time recording a podcast about Tomatoes with Alys Folwer and Jane Perrone for the Guardian. There’s some great ideas for cooking from chef Stevie Parle and wonderful advice from Craig LeHouiller who’s grown over 1000 tomato varieties over the last 30 years https://soundcloud.com/sow-grow-repeat/sow-grow-repeat-tomatoes

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Indigo Rose tomatoesI’ve been watching this tomato for a while now (Indigo Rose seeds available from Plant World Seeds), and many neighbours and passersby have been commenting on these alluring fruits too. They seemed resolutely black and rock ‘ard up until a day or two ago, but now things are changing. Michelle at Veg Plotting luckily wrote about how to tell when this black tomato is ripe, so I’ve been patiently waiting for any sign of red.

Indigo Rose tomatoes closeAnd here it is. The green underside has slowly but surely started to redden up. What a gorgeous thing!

On eating, this, sadly, isn’t the most tasty tomato I’ve ever tried. Rather bland and with a mushy, watery texture. My favourite tomato ever is Ananas Noir (freshly plucked last summer when holidaying in the Loire) and it’s a hard act to follow, but I may well grow this variety again, just for its amazing good looks alone.

yellow tomatotesMeanwhile, I’ve been tucking into these delicious ‘Golden Crown’ cherry tomatoes, supplied by Sea Spring Seeds for lunches and dinners and these fruits have been remarkably sweet and full of flavour. A definite for next year.

Black cherry‘Black Cherry’ (more of a muddy red), also from Sea Spring Seeds has also been a little disappointing in taste, so the search continues for a truly delicious ‘black’ variety that will sweeten-up well when grown outdoors in our northern clime.

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Eleni and her trboncinoThis year we gave away Tromboncino courgette seeds as part of our community veg growing project. They’re a big hit.

Now Eleni, above, is no novice grower. She knows her veg. She’s grown this summer squash before. But this year she’s gone wild and let it grow and grow. She’s knocked twice to invite me round to see it.

She knows it’s past eating, but she doesn’t care. She just likes seeing it grow.

Tromboncino courgette

Meanwhile, neighbours next door shared a splendid meal last night with said vegetable. They sliced it with a potato peeler into thin, flat, pasta-like strips and when slightly cooked, mixed it with tomatoes, garlic, spicy mini meatballs made from chorizo sausages and some oricchiette (ear shaped) pasta. It looked amazing and tasted delicious.

There’s nothing like growing your own.

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