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Lars Lund

08 Sep 2020 14:34

Tomatoes with a difference

You might be lucky to have an independent food shop in your local town that sells a wider range of fruit and vegetables than you’ll find at the supermarket, but the easiest way to guarantee having something a bit different on your plate is to grow your own.

 

Written by Lars Lund 

Edited by Louise Curley

 

Tomatoes available in supermarkets tend to be red, but there are so many more different types from which to choose, with some being more suited to particular roles in the kitchen, for instance some are best eaten raw, whereas others are great for cooking. You can get tomatoes in a range of colours other than plain red – some are yellow, some orange, there are black ones and some are a striped mix of colours. There are pear-shaped varieties, tiny bite-sized ones and huge beefsteak tomatoes the size of a fist.

These are a store cupboard essential and have been sun or oven-dried, which intensifies their flavour, then preserved in jars filled with olive oil. A classic variety that the Italians grow to produce tomatoes for drying is ‘Principe Borghese’, which has small, deep red, oblong-shaped fruit.

Old but new

The old news is a “Black from Tula”. It dates back to the late 1800s and stems from Russia. It carries large beefsteak tomatoes in a dark red/brownish colour. It has been referred to as an ugly but tasteful tomato. It has an intense taste and the fruits can weigh up to 10.6 ounces.

Is it a tomato?

Then there’s the tomatillo, a delicious fruit used in Mexican recipes. It isn’t an actual tomato but it is related. It needs heat to germinate and needs to be kept frost-free, so start it off indoors but don’t sow too early as it needs plenty of room to grow  it’s a good idea to wait until March to sow the seeds, otherwise you risk the plant getting so large that it outgrows its space.

Top tomato growing tips

  • Tomatoes can be sown from the end of February on a bright window ledge.
  • The temperature needs to be between 18 and 23 degrees.
  • After the germination they should be placed in a slightly cooler place so that they grow into compact plants rather than leggy and spindly.
  • The plants should be transplanted into individual pots when they have 2 sets of leaves.
  • Use a dilute seaweed fertiliser once a week when the tomato plants are moved into the greenhouse. When flowers appear fertilise once a week with tomato or comfrey fertiliser.
  • Pinch out the side shoots of tall, cordon tomatoes to encourage more fruit to form.
  • Don’t overwater as this reduces flower formation.