The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Grow Red Brandy Wine tomatoes for flavour and great returns


Photo: Red Brandy Wine tomatoes waiting to ripen

Photo: Red Brandy Wine tomatoes waiting to ripen

We’ve grown a wonderful new (to us) tomato this year. Taking Tamar’s advice – she writes the sparky Starving off the Land blog  – I invested in an American variety of tomato seed called Red Brandy Wine. This variety has some resistance to blight. I spotted biodynamic seed in the Lunar Organics online catalogue . Following biodynamic principles, I sowed the seed on a fruit day. Then pricked out and planted on the relevant day. Incidentally I found the Lunar Organics biodynamic calendar much easier to use than Maria Thum’s calendar.

We grew some RBW in the greenhouse, a few against the sunny south west facing wall of the cottage and a line along the back of the new asparagus patch. This row has produced vast fruits, much bigger than their siblings at the front of the cottage. They have not had much TLC and have largely been ignored. In fact I’ve only fed them twice this summer. The fruits are so heavy that I’ll need to build a much heftier frame when I grow them next year. And I reckon that the fruit need individual nets as the stems are folding under the strain of the weight!

Some of the RBW tomatoes in the greenhouse have ripened so I bought one inside for breakfast yesterday and tentatively sliced off a sliver to sample. After months of cherishing it can be so disappointing if a tomato doesn’t taste as great as you think it should. My mouth was filled with the flavour of a great operatic tomato – with a whole swathe of tomatoey notes. I haven’t eaten a tomato like this since we were in Italy, seven years ago. Perfect. It slices like a dream too – tomato sandwiches here I come. The hefty 300g tom was good grilled too.

I don’t know the secret of my success with our toms this year. We have over 40 plants and a wide range of varieties. Perhaps it was that really long stretch of hot weather earlier in the year? Or following the biodynamic calendar, feeding the soil with Rockdust last Autumn, piling on barrow loads of well rotted manure in the Spring. Perhaps companion planting is the secret – apparently tomatoes and asparagus adore each other.

It also might be that RBW are just huge tomatoes. It’s difficult to associate these heavyweights with the tiny seedlings that germinated back in February.

I’m going to use the biodynamic calendar and companion planting again next year. And keep on working on improving the quality of the soil. As Danny says
“If our methods are working and we get great crops let’s do the same next year.”

If you want to try companion planting for yourself, I thoroughly recommend Companion Planting by Brenda Little. It has been reprinted several times and I can understand why. It’s excellent.

Meanwhile we are hoping for a few sunny days to ripen our tomato crop!

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    Overall how self sufficient are you – are you watching the new self sufficient TV series on BBC1 – kind of a new good Life.

  2. I’ve grown Brandywine this year too, but I’ve had problems with it going mouldy in between the folds before it ripens – any suggestions?

  3. We’ve grown some brandywines this year that have been great but my personal favourite is Black Russian – great in sandwiches.

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