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Home grown tomatoes: a retrospective


Photo: Tomatoes from the garden

Photo: Tomatoes from the garden

We grew several varieties of tomatoes this year and for the first year ever had a success with the French Super Marmande slicing tomato.  It looked superb on the vine and it was with great joy that we plucked the first sturdy fruit.
Danny was silent as he tasted the first slice.
“What’s wrong?”
“It tastes woolly and it’s very thin on the flavour factor.”

I had bought the Unwins ‘The Classic Tomato Collection’ – comprising, Super Marmande, Golden Sunrise, Ailsa Craig and Gardener’s Delight. The last three were very good with all the punchy flavour that one would expect from a home grown tom. Golden Sunrise was particularly good – I had imagined that this was a cherry tomato and was amazed when a chunky one dropped into my hand in the greenhouse. I took a tentative bite – the flavour was intense and deep.

We supplemented the Unwins collection with plum tomato plants from the church fête. Despite a bit of blight we have harvested over 25 kilos already.

We eat a lot of tomatoes so often buy up knock down price tomatoes at Tesco. Yesterday Danny bough back two packs of Tesco finest British Pink Sunrise tomatoes from the condemned food counter. They looked tempting and tasted amazing. Within seconds I was on the net trying to track down seeds for next year, without success. Luckily we have a couple left and I’ve saved the seed from these – although I suspect that these are a new F1 variety and will not grow true. But they might.

I know that it’s a bit early to be thinking about next years tomatoes but with the flavours of this years bounty still fresh in your mind can you recommend the tastiest tomatoes that you have grown this year?

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  1. I used to grow lost of wierd varieties (Marmande, Pixie, Black Russian), but this year after a couple of disappointing crops (mostly due to the weather I think) I stuck to Sungold and Gardner’s Delight. Both have been excellent. The Sungold are just amazing… They will grow tall if you don’t stop them, so stopping them when you have 6 or 7 trusses seems to work well. Hardly any green toms this year (which is actually a shame as I quite like green tomatoe chutney!).

  2. Despite a rather unpromising start to the season, we ended up with ridiculous quantities of fruit on all the tomatoes. The Gardeners Delight outside got blight, but the fruits were picked the instant we noticed and most of them ripened indoors happily and without scabbing. For the first time I grew a decent marmande, but sadly I cannot tell you what variety it was as I did a tomato seedling swap with a couple of chums and one of them clearly has the same labelling problem I have. Plants all labelled nicely, just not with the correct label. The marmande was labelled “red cherry” so I grew it in a smallish pot…Sungold did well this year- one of my all-time favourites, so delicious. All varieties really took their time ripening and developing flavour this year.

  3. Gardener’s Delight for eating and Roma for cooking this year, both of which cropped heavily and survived the blight with careful spraying.

    Surprised at the comments on red pear, we grew them a couple of years back and they were great once they got properly ripe. Maybe that was the problem in this dull summer?

    Next year – probably GD, Roma and I think I would like to try sungold .. but I could change my mind n million times between now and planting time.

  4. katyvic

    We tried:

    5x Ildi (a yellow cherry-plum, if you see what I mean) which produce huge numbers of tiny but tasty tomatoes. Very difficult to pick, even when ripe – they just won’t come away. Will probably only have 3 next year, but they were good.

    6x Harbinger (which were very productive, good sized for cutting, but slightly disappointing for taste). Will do 6 again next year unless I hear of anything better.

    4x Red Pear (small red pear shaped): very disappointing – succombed to mildew/fungal attacks and fruit cracked. Low yield, too. Won’t do these next year.

    6x Sweet 1 million. Fantastic crop of these. Very tasty and a good mixture of sizes from tiny (Sainsbury’s cheekily sell these as ‘Tomberries’ at a huge price!) to the normal size for a Gardeners’ Delight. Will do 6 again.

    We are still looking for a good tasty slicing tomato, but have never succeeded with either Brandy Wine or Marmande: they go squishy/blistery before ripening for us.

    We’re going to plant some Gardener’s Delight next year instead of the Red Pear. I got the seeds reduced to 20p in end of season sale.


  5. I’ve done really well on my tomatoes this year. This year I grew Gardeners Delight, San Marzano, Mexico Midget, Matt’s Wild Cherry, Blondkopfchen, Green Tiger, Brown Cherry, Harbinger and Cheethams Potato Leaf. Most of these were self saved or were from internet seed swaps.

    They were all great with the exception of Green Tiger which was really horrible.

    I have saved seeds from most so have some to swap if you’re interested!

  6. My mother always grew Moneymaker Gardeners Delight and Ailsa Craig, and so successfully that I never bothered with my own greenhouse. She would never bother with ‘new fangled’ varieties. My daughter raised lots of Gardeners Delight plants from seed – which cropped well in grow bags this summer and now she’s hooked and planning to dig up her lawn and grow more veg. My grandfather was an asparagus grower in the Vale of Evesham and I still have the asparagus knife (with a serrated angled steel end and his initials carved in the wooden handle) I used to use it myself when I had my own asparagus bed. Good luck with your bed.

  7. steve h

    This year i grew 3 variaties in the greenhouse, Moneymaker, Shirley, and italian plum Roma.
    Unfortunately just as the 2nd truss was setting fruit, i got absolutely blitzed by blight and eventually lost the lot. I noticed however, that it started in the Roma, then the Shirleys, the Moneymaker managed to stave it off for a further fortnight, but succumed in the end. Next year i`ve had several recommenations from the “old Boys” to grow Moneymaker and Ailsa Craig as these “oldtime types” are quite resiliant and heavy croppers! – so thats my plan!

  8. Wow, 25kg that’s amazing. My tomatoes didn’t work this year. They flowered but I didn’t get any fruit. Oh well, hopefully by next spring I’ll have a proper patch in the garden to grow them, rather than trying in pots.

  9. This past spring we made a deal with an extremely talented gardener of our acquaintance: a peck of clams for some home-grown tomato seedlings.

    We had beautiful Sungold (yellow cherry) and Brandywine tomatoes all through late summer and into fall (we, too, had the blight, and count ourselves lucky for having a decent crop regardless). I’m not sure it was the varieties themselves, or the skill of our friend Christl, but I’ll cast my vote for those two.

  10. Magic Cochin

    We’ve had such poor tomato harvest over the past two or three years due to cool, dull weather and blight. This year by comparison has been very good – but not brilliant as our tomatoes have been very late ripening. Probably my choice of varieties didn’t help, so next year I’m going for some tried and tested cherry toms like Gardeners’ Delight or Sungold instead of just the strange and wonderfully named heritage seeds I aquire 😉

    I grow Marmande Temprano (seed bought in Italy) and this year they’ve been excellent. Is this the same as your Marmande? It’s a bit tastless when raw but comes alive when warmed with a dribble of olive oil and served on toast for lunch. Good for a cooked breakfast too.

    My favourite for cooking is Liguria, another Italian seed bought on holiday. It has that huge plump gathered bag shape – like the ones you see in Italian markets. It quickly breaks down to a smooth fresh tasting puree – perfect with pasta or gnochi.

    The most productive plants this year are Tiger Tom – seed from the Heritage seed Library. Uniform pingpong ball size fruit. Beautiful stripy orange/red but thick skinned. Taste fine but not exceptional.


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