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Tomatoes come in all shapes and sizes

Monday, September 5, 2016 - 10:00

GARDENING
WHILE many gardeners’ tomatoes have been well and truly hit by blight this year, I have had to invest in a juicer to ensure not too much is wasted.
Currant tomatoes may only be diminutive, as the name suggests, but they have a beautiful taste and there have been loads of them adding to the bounty.
This year, Dobies of Devon supplied me with two varieties, red and yellow currant, and I thought I was prepared for their indeterminate ways but they literally exploded into growth, forcing their way out of the greenhouse.
I grew them together with Northwood grower Stan Jackson’s Queen of Hearts — and as it turned out it was to be his last summer tasting the succulent variety — Crimson Crush, the beefsteak marmande and an ancient variety from the Andes grown for me and lucky visitors to the Main Road, Havenstreet, plant table by Freddy Watts.
There is also Rosella, again an indeterminate, but a dark-fleshed cherry tomato with exceptional flavour.
Most of poor Freddy’s fruits succumbed to blight because he grows the majority out of doors, although there was one Andean survivor and he definitely — on the strength of that success — plans to produce more of those plants next year.
They look like enlarged chilli peppers, which should not be unusual as both come from different branches of the same plant family.
Solanaceae includes the genus solanum, which contains the potato, the tomato (S. lycopersicum), and the eggplant or aubergine (S. melongena).
It is the genus capsicum which produces chilli and bell peppers.
Currant tomatoes have much in common with their South American cousins produced by Freddy.
All tomatoes originally came from that continent and have, of course, been much modified in all sorts of ways since they were exported all over the world.
Currant tomatoes are related to the Mexican wild cherry tomato and, as such, can tolerate some of the hottest areas.
The vines require staking or try growing them against a fence or trellis.
Feed the plants with tomato fertilizer and water them frequently, especially once blossoms and fruit begin to set.
Their twin disadvantages are their unruly nature, which cannot be controlled by pruning, and the fact the fruits are tiny.
Plus points are they are packed with flavour (my friends and family err on the side of red over yellow, saying it is a tad sweeter) and each plant will produce hundreds of tomatoes.
They also have a long truss life unlike their conventional cousins, which easily over-ripen
But the huge advantage is they will produce all season long until frost kills the plants.
In a greenhouse in a mild winter there have been reports of perfectly good fruit continuing after Christmas.
The sweetest varieties of the lot are sugar plum, sweet pea and Hawaiian.
A balance of sweet and tart is reached in lemon drop.
The Dobies tomatoes are in the Rob Smith Heritage vegetable range
In his publicity blurb, he said: "Solanum pimpernelifolium produces tiny fruits, hence the name.
"It’s a different species from your common garden tomato and its hardly changed since it was found growing wild on a Peruvian beach in 1707.
"The plants are very disease resistant and can tolerate cooler temperatures. Each tiny tomato is crisp and has a really intense, sweet/tart flavour. Good in salads, or straight from the plant, these tomatoes will reward you with fruit every day."
Red currant plants typically require around 75 days to reach maturity and make a good choice for containers and hanging baskets.
On Gardeners’ World at the weekend, I discovered all the hanging basket tomato varieties in its Devon trial had succumbed to blight.
Indoors it is less of a problem because there is a measure of protection from the spores but should you wish to persist with trying outdoors then crimson crush is the tomato for you.
With tomatoes around the country ruined by blight in recent years, the arrival of the completely blight-resistant tomato saves vegetable growers from a fruitless season.
Crimson crush is a standard indeterminate tomato developed to be grown outside in the vegetable garden, allotment or container. The vivid red fruits are large — they weigh in at up to about 7oz/200g each — and are carried in generous trusses.
Its exceptional disease resistance is the result of the fact this is the first variety to have two different resistance genes instead of just one.
But — the crucial question — what about the taste? Suttons Seeds describe it as outstanding — and I cannot disagree with that.
Tomato super marmande, on the other hand, is a large, juicy beefsteak tomato with a rich sweet flavour.
Distinguished by its irregular cushion shape and touch of pink on the shoulders, it is ideal for adding to salads or cooking, or in a burger or BLT.
This semi-bush variety is easy to grow either in the greenhouse or outdoors and requires minimal training.

Reporter: richardw@iwcpmail.co.uk

 


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