This year I’ve grown a few new-to-me varieties of tomatoes and thought I should write a brief review of them and of growing tomatoes generally this year.
Firstly the varieties I grew included wild sweetie, lemon drop, black cherry, Amish paste and a couple of unknown varieties – one Roma like and the other a large cherry variety, both picked up at a charity shop without specific labels. The growing conditions have been a challenge for tomatoes as for the rest of the plants in my veggie patch. My first lot of seedlings got roasted in the greenhouse one unexpectedly hot day in October last year, the only surviving plant was one of the wild sweeties. After I had planted all the seedlings and some seed which I sowed direct (in desperation) winter returned for pretty much all of December, a cold, wet month providing less than ideal growing conditions for the new plants. And to top things off we had weeks of totally blistering intense heat in January and no substantial rain for months. It was terrible for gardeners, watering became a mammoth daily task and being in the patch was unbearable some days. Given all this, the successes I have had are so appreciated.
The wild sweetie, gifted by Skud and of which I grew two of, have been wildly successful. They grow the tiniest bright red cherry tomatoes and I must have picked 100s, maybe 1000s of them. They are superbly sweet, great snacks for the kids straight from the bush or in a little bowl and fabulous in a mixed tomato salad. I think these are probably the best tasting tomato I’ve ever grown. But there are two downsides to the wild sweetie. Firstly it takes me forever to pick all those tiny little tomatoes, and I really mean that. I must have stood bent over those two bushes for hours in total, and I have the back ache to prove it. Secondly, they are very big sprawling plants that seemed impossible to stake and tie up effectively. This meant they both took over my garden paths and grew way beyond the space I had allowed for them. If I grow them again – which I hope to if my seed saving skills work out – I will put them in pots close to the back door. I hope this will restrict the growth a little and make them even more accessible for the girls.
The lemon drop – another from Skud and a surprise yellow variety for me – grows the prettiest little yellow cherry tomatoes that have a little point at the end like a rain drop (hence the name I guess). They look stunning in salads. The taste is less intense than some other varieties and certainly less sweet than the wild sweetie, but it’s a fantastic salad tomato with a nice simple lemon and olive oil or balsamic dressing. The plant is much more compact than the wild sweetie and if staked appropriately – which mine wasn’t – would make a good sized cherry tomato for a smallish garden. My one criticism would be that it’s not a huge producer. I only ever get a handful of ripe tomatoes at one time, but it’s still got lots of fruit in various stages of ripeness as we speak.
The Black Cherry – I had to hunt for the variety because I had lost the label but I’m very confident this is it – makes the third variety of cherry in my mixed tomato salads and is a dark maroon/greeny colour. The flavour is very satisfying and the colour is fabulous. The plant initially grew very tall and was one that I used a tomato cage to contain instead of staking it. This worked very well at first, but the plant has become so heavily ladened with fruit that it has just about toppled the cage over. It is currently has branches drooping to the ground, some lying flat along the ground. Needless to say this has been (weight-wise) the best producers with harvests of well over a kilo every week.
Armish Paste – two words…. VERY DISAPPOINTING! I have grown this in the past with some success, enough to make plenty of tomato sauce and passatta. This year I am still yet to pick a single ripe tomato. Granted it was planted a little later than some of the other (I have two growing) and one of them is in a slightly shadier position, but this is still a terrible result. One plant (in the sunnier position) has never grown well, the fruit are all very small by comparison to the other, it has suffered blossom end rot when no others have been effected and it looks awful. The other plant is big, beautifully green and covered with large (completely green) fruit. So much potential in that plant for so little result. It’s coming out this weekend and I’ll turn the fruit into green tomato pickles.
The other random roma-like plant has a good crop of fruit on it which has been ripening and harvested for several weeks but only in small numbers. Some of the fruit have been quite small – I think due to the hot, dry summer we had – but they are lovely cut up in salads or cooked. This plant grew quite tall, but was very compact. It looks very much worse for wear now, but is still producing well.
Final random cherry variety – this plant again is in a slightly shadier position and the fruit has been very slow to ripen. When they do they are beautiful, big round balls of glorious redness. I love them – I wish I had picked more, many more! I would like to see what this plant does when grown in full all-day sun. I’ll certainly try and save some seeds from this one as well and give it another go next year.
That’s my tomato wrap up. And as I contemplate varieties, positions and planting timing for next year I realise that the VAST majority of all my current seeds (not just the tomatoes) are well past their used by date. Time to restock….. so what tomato varieties have done best by you? And where do you get you seeds from?