Ever eaten one of those supermarket tomatoes?
You know the kind. The ones that even a goat wouldn’t eat. The type that you could drive a Mac truck over and it would still look and taste the same. Grown for transportation and long life, not for taste.
Well dear reader, look no further for a solution. Heirloom tomatoes (also known as Heritage in the UK) just the fruit for you, and the great news is that you can grow them yourself.
This year I didn’t need to buy tomato seeds, as I saved them from the previous year’s crop, however I did use some that I had previously purchased from Diggers Club and Eden Seeds.
I planted Tigerella, Tommy Toe, Mortgage Lifter, Thai Pink Egg, Broad Ripple Yellow Currant, Elfie, and Black Russian. All the seedlings grew well in the greenhouse.
Heirloom tomatoes are easy to grow, and you will get a crop between 120 – 150 days depending on your climate. They need warm soil to germinate, so if your climate is a bit cooler, start them off in seedling punnets indoors or on a germination pad, or in a greenhouse or cold frame.
In our area I plant the seeds in August and harvest in Late January/Early February. Further north the season is from March to June/July, but can only grow fruit fly resistant cultivars. We have no such fruit fly problem in Melbourne, fingers crossed.
When planting your tomatoes, choose the strongest looking ones, and plant the seedling in well composted soil. I also a few big handfuls of dynamic lifter or seasoned chicken manure from the girls. Tomatoes enjoy slightly acidic soils, so they don’t mind used coffee grounds, or used tea leaves under mulch. Mulch the plants well, and water regularly to ensure that the soil is moist.
I usually try and stake each plant, but this year they just got away from me.
It looks like a bit of a mess, however I have noticed something interesting. Because the fruit are not on display due to the lack of staking and training, two really good things have occurred During the extremely hot weather we have had, I have not lost any fruit due to cooking on the vine (they turn white and then rot if too hot), and because the ground-cover is dense, the birds don’t like getting into the matted vines and eating the ripe fruit.
Anyway, back to the tomatoes. Here are some that I harvested today (click to enlarge).
They all have different, subtle flavours and are delicious in salads, or sandwiches. The varieties that I grew this year are not particularly suited for making Passata. The best cultivar for sauces is the Amish Paste, Brandy wine, Roma, or any of the oxheart types.
So, heirloom tomatoes are wonderful to use because of their colours, unusual appearance and the good strong flavours. Your veggie garden is a much more interesting place when you grow your own food, and many of these varieties are beautiful to look at. The perfect summer fruit.