Monday 24 July 2017

Tomato update

After yesterday's post about the chilli situation, it seems appropriate today to do the same for the tomatoes.

This year most of my tomatoes have set a lot of fruit. Just as with the chillis, I think this is probably due mainly to the good weather in June. I'm just hoping that the current spate of dull and wet weather ends soon. I know that the dreaded Blight thrives in humid conditions, so I'm hoping that the strong winds we have been experiencing have reduced the humidity enough to remove the threat.

If Blight does arrive, my plan is to pick the majority of the fruit and ripen it indoors. A tomato fruit is initially dark green, with a matt finish to its skin. Later on it turns glossy and then shortly before ripening it goes a lighter colour (often very pale), and then finally takes on its ripe colour, be it red, orange, purple or whatever. Most of mine are at the "pale" stage now, and I know from experience that this means they are highly likely to ripen even if picked.

"Orange Banana" - not yet orange, but the fruit at the top of the truss has turned very pale.

The little cherry-sized tomatoes are usually the first ones to ripen, and this year is no exception. First to offer up some ripe fruit was "Losetto", a smallish bush variety.

These were very nice tomatoes - thin-skinned and very tasty. "Losetto" has the added advantage of being very blight-resistant.

My favourite small tomato is "Maskotka", whose fruits are a bit larger than the traditional cherry-size. An unruly, sprawling plant (well suited to trailing from a hanging basket or tall container), it produces a huge crop, and usually over a long period. Mine are just coming into their own now.

Most recognizable of my smaller varieties is Sungold, grown traditionally as a cordon:

We have eaten a few from the lowest truss, and I can tell you that they were very nice!

Still with the cherry tomatoes, I have one plant of "Sweet Aperitif". It's first fruits are just ripening now. I'm looking forward to trying some, because the unripe fruits are a most unusual grey-green colour, which is a bit unappetising.

I have two plants of the bush variety "Grushkova". This too seems to be very heavy-cropping, but it produces fruit in a wide range of shapes and sizes. You can see that this little clutch of beauties (just beginning to ripen) is far from uniform.

Certainly the most uniform of the varieties I'm growing this year is "Ailsa Craig", an old traditional variety, first introduced at least 100 years ago. It is apparently the tomato against which all others are supposedly judged. It has thin skins, a taste that is exactly the right balance of acidity and sweetness, and a classic tomato-red colour.

My plant has set six lovely even trusses:

This is "Marmonde", the plant with the biggest fruits at present. They are just beginning to turn colour too.

This is "Ferline". I have found it very difficult to photograph on account of its exceptionally shiny skins.

Then we have the deeply-ribbed "Costoluto Fiorentino". This one is grown from seeds sent to me by a friend in the Netherlands. It's a variety with bags of character!

This next one is "Fishlake Oxheart", from seeds sent to me originally by Facebook friend Eddy Ceyssens in Belgium. Again, it has fruits of several different shapes - some of which look vaguely like an ox heart!

Next one is "Ananas", which as the name suggests, should be orangey-yellow when ripe, though at this stage it looks very much like many of the other varieties - green and wrinkly!

Now we have "Vintage Wine" (red when ripe). This one has been very slow to set fruit and the plant itself doesn't look strong. A couple of the fruits have developed Blossom End Rot too.

Last of the collection is "Cherokee Purple", of which I have two plants. This is a very vigorous variety, throwing out new shoots left, right and centre. I initially set out to grow them as cordons, but soon gave up on that. Let's just say they are "rampant" - more like shrub tomatoes than bushes! It's worth persevering with though, because it produces lovely big deep purple fruit.

Finally for today I want to mention a job that I have done this week: more de-leafing. Following established practice, I have removed a lot of the foliage from my tomato plants, especially below the ripening fruit. This allows air to circulate better (reducing the chance of disease), and exposes the fruit to more sunlight, which can aid ripening. Note: tomatoes can ripen in the dark, so I wouldn't want to over-emphasise the latter aspect. My feeling is that tomatoes ripening in strong sunshine do actually taste better, but that's probably just a perception!

The three plants in my big wooden coldframe demonstrate the results of this procedure.

There are two "Maskotka" on the upper shelf, trailing down over one "Losetto" down below.

I know I have already harvested a few of the smaller tomatoes, but it still doesn't feel as if the harvest has begun in earnest until I can pick some of the big ones too. Not long now, I hope!


  1. Fantastic selection of tomatoes of all shapes and sizes. I intended to grow Ferline but had germination issues. The info on it says it takes 90 days to maturity, but it looks like yours has ripened much faster.

  2. I agree that tomatoes ripened in strong sunshine taste better. In fact a few weeks ago my father and I were discussing this and according to him "a tomato that doesn't get enough sun isn't worth a darn." Hot dry conditions produce the best taste. If we are predicting a lot of rain, I'll pick anything almost ripe and take it in so the taste doesn't wash out (and so it won't crack). During high tomato season I'd rather have drought.

    Your tomatoes are absolutely picture perfect. Impressive long cordons.


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