Monday, 3 May 2010


In my search for the perfect tomato I grow three or four varieties every year. In 2009 I bought seeds from the Real Seed Company and Seeds of Italy that included:
  • Latah – an early salad tomato. It was OK, but we’ve had better.
  • Irish Gardener’s Delight – vine tomato. Sweet taste but skins split – which was annoying
  • Russian Uribkany – an early bush, salad tomato. OK, but not worth a repeat sowing.
  • Costoluto Fiorentino -  a ribbed beef tomato. We didn’t like this raw in salad as it was too fleshy. But it made a very tasty roast-tomato soup. So this one definitely gets a second year in the garden.
The shortlist for 2010...
Costoluto Fiorentino. The seed was sown on March 21st and most of it germinated. The eight best seedlings were kept for potting on and they are now looking pretty healthy (picture above). They should have been planted out this week - but the weather has turned cold and I wimped out, frightened the frost might kill them off. For the moment they'll stay in the mini greenhouse until the weather warms up.
Harbinger was also sown on March 21st. According to Chiltern Seeds, Harbinger was introduced in 1910. "It produces medium sized fruit, thin-skinned and of a very good flavour."
Big yields are nice, but not that important - taste is why this one made the shortlist.
The Black Cherry seeds were sown two weeks later than the others on April 4th, which is why they are so small (see pic above). That's OK, with some warm sun they will soon catch up. These are a small cherry salad tomato. The fruit should be dark red to purple which will make a change from the usual red.

Besides tomatoes for soup and salad, there should also be enough green ones left over for chutney. 

There is another tomato on the shortlist: Piccolo. It is a small cherry tomato and tastes wonderful, Waitrose and Sainnsburys both sell it. But, nobody seems to offer these seeds. Sadly you can't grow this from the seed collected from the fruit as it would not grow true. It is an F1 hybrid produced by crossing two different tomatoes. To find out more about F1 hybrids try this wikipedia pageAs well as F1 you might see tomatoes referred to as determinate and indeterminate and wonder what that means...

Determinate tomatoes
  • Grow to about 1.2m, flower and bear their fruit all at once
  • Sometimes called bush varieties and often don't need staking
  • Do not need side shoots removed.

Indeterminate tomatoes
  • Bear fruit across the whole season you will see flowers and fruit together on the plant
  • They only stop producing once hit by frost
  • Grow taller and so need staking to support them and the weight of fruit
  • Usually need side shoots removed
  • They are often 'stopped' by pinching out the growing tip after a certain height has been reached.
Black Cherry, Harbinger and Costoluto Fiorentino are all indeterminate.

Christina Fox

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