Tuesday, 4 September 2018

It's High Season for tomatoes and chillis

The hot weather this Summer has been really good for the tomatoes and chillis. I've had a very fine crop of both, and they are still going strong. My red cherry tomato types (2 bushes of "Montello" and 6 of "Maskotka") produced over 17 kilograms of fruit. There are still some more to come, but I've given up weighing them because it became a bit of a chore! As well as "Montello" and "Maskotka" I have had loads of the orange "Tango" and the red-and-yellow stripy "Bumblebee Sunrise". I particularly like "Tango" because the fruits are a lot denser than most cherry tomato types, and it has very few seeds.

It is now the turn of the larger types to take the lead.

I decided at the start of the season that I was not going to weigh every tomato I picked, because I am not obsessed with adding up tallies or anything, but I can sense whether the crop is good, bad or indifferent. This year I can safely say that the crop is good! And so far there has been no Blight...

We seem to be making some tomato-based product or meal every day at present. As I write there is a pan of soon-to-be ketchup simmering away on the hob. The freezer is already filling up with little plastic tubs of tomato sauce, a couple more every other day or so. At present I would say we are about half-way through the tomato harvest, so they will be joined by a good few more tubs before the season finishes. I have to say though that frozen tomato sauce is nowhere near as good as freshly-made (and NOT frozen) tomato sauce. We had some with homemade mushroom ravioli this week, and it was absolutely wonderful.

Now that the days are shortening, my garden (and therefore the tomato plants) gets less sunshine that it did during July and August, so I tend to pick my tomatoes as soon as they show a decent amount of colour and put them in trays which I can move around easily.

On sunny days the trays spend most of the time out in the garden, being moved into direct sunlight whenever necessary, and on duller days they remain indoors where it is generally slightly warmer.

I find that the length of time from "showing a bit of colour" to "fully ripe" is normally only a few days.

This handsome beast is a "Monserrat".

The chilli crop is also only just getting into its stride. OK, we have already had enough pickings to make two batches of our favourite Sweet Chilli Sauce, but the bulk of the crop is still to come. This mixture of red chillis which I picked a couple of days ago weighed 230g. We need 250g for our Sweet Chilli Sauce recipe, so they were stashed in the fridge in a plastic bag while we await the ripening of just a few more.

The Scotch Bonnets grown from seeds given to me by a friend called Dee (hence called "Dee's Scotch Bonnet") are just turning colour now. They go from their original lime green colour to bright red via a very appealing intermediate "traffic light" mix of red, green and amber.

I now have to work out what to do with the ripe fruits - of which there are approximately 30 - because I know they are going to be very hot, much hotter than we like. I think we might use one or two in some Caribbean meals, but we certainly won't want 30!

I have the same problem here:

This is the plant I call "Not Cheiro Roxa". It was supposed to be "Cheiro Roxa" but the friend who sent me the seeds for it evidently didn't segregate its parents, one of which must have been a (very hot) Habanero type. The fruits look very beautiful, but the heat is too much for us. I know somebody who is a member of our local Gardeners of Fleet Facebook Group who might like to have them. She is a Thai lady and apparently makes hot sauces, chutneys etc.

At a mere 35,000 Scoville Heat Units, I think this "Aji Limo" is probably going to be more to our taste... As a reference point, the very popular and commonly encountered "Paper Lantern" Habanero is rated at 300,000 SHU. The Carolina Reaper (one of the world's hottest chillis) has a rated average of 1,569,300 SHU, with individual fruits achieving over 2.2 million. Ouch!

From what I have heard, the effects of Climate Change mean that the long hot drought we experienced this year is likely to become the norm, or at least less unusual. In some cases this is going to be a real problem for veg-gardeners: for instance this year my Runner beans have done really badly, all but the earliest sowings of Radishes were tough, woody and far too peppery, and my lettuces all bolted before reaching maturity. On the other hand it may give us some opportunities that we didn't have before, and sun-loving plants normally associated with the tropics may become possible to grow here in the UK. Climate Change is not something that can be reversed overnight (if at all), so I think the most sensible approach is to make the most of it. Any suggestions for "tropical" plants I ought to try next year???


  1. Our freezer is also filling up with little tubs of tomato 'almost' sauce. The tomatoes are cooked down but that is all at this stage so that I can use them as I like later.

  2. Hi Mark it’s lovely to see your chillis and tomatoes. Can you tell me how it takes for scotch bonnets to ripe. Mine are still green. I don’t have a garden and have grown them in a pot. Some suggestions would be nice. Cheers

    1. Hi Medha; I sowed my chilli seeds on 17 February and the Scotch Bonnets are just ripening now, so that's 6 months+. This about normal. Some varieties take longer than others - e.g. I find that my favourite Aji Limon normally ripens in late September. However, the amount of heat and light the plants get has a big influence. More heat & light means earlier ripening. Reducing watering can also put the plant under stress and cause its fruit to ripen earlier if you want this.

  3. That’s really helpful. I am not in a rush just wanted to make sure I am doing everything right. The weather is Channel Islands now is getting cloudy. I will try watering less and see how it goes. I really enjoy reading your posts. Thank you.

  4. Long hot summers in the future ? Who knows. Only a few years ago, the predictions were for wetter summers!
    Having lived in hot dry summers SW France for 13 years, growing veg, I got used to mid summer no lettuce, certainly no runner beans, no main crop potatoes and shading our pepper plants under split cane shade structures. French beans and French climbing beans always did well and of course, aubergines. We grew the other heat hating crops early and late season only.

  5. the variety of your tomatoes is amazing, I have esp. taken a fancy to the bumblebee sunrise - utterly gorgeous


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