Top choice for tasty toma­toes

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - HOME - Peter Cun­dall

ONLY Tas­ma­nian gar­den­ers are aware the toma­toes we grow here are by far the best flavoured of any grown just about any­where. That’s be­cause of our in­tense sun­light, per­fect for grow­ing the plants, and the rel­a­tively cool tem­per­a­tures as ripen­ing be­gins.

It’s still a bit too early to plant seedlings out­doors. I pre­fer to wait un­til the soil has warmed and frost dan­ger has long passed, so wait un­til around mid to late Oc­to­ber. Seedlings planted in cold soil never fully re­cover and of­ten re­main stunted and ail­ing for the rest of the grow­ing sea­son.

How­ever, there’s noth­ing wrong with sowing tomato seeds now, un­der cover, of course. Keep in mind, soil tem­per­a­tures just over 20C are needed for strong ger­mi­na­tion. And the great ad­van­tages of seeds are very low costs and a huge se­lec­tion of va­ri­eties not nor­mally avail­able at many gar­den cen­tres.

I use a seedling- rais­ing mix in­stead of pot­ting soil, usu­ally fill­ing a well- drained tray or flat. The seeds can then be sown in marked rows. Ger­mi­na­tion is swift ( about a week) if con­tain­ers are slipped into a plas­tic bag and placed on the top of a do­mes­tic hot wa­ter heater. A cou­ple of lay­ers of card­board make ex­cel­lent in­su­la­tion be­neath con­tain­ers.

When ger­mi­na­tion hap­pens, seedlings pop up with great speed and must im­me­di­ately be re­moved from the bag and placed in bright sun­light, oth­er­wise the seedlings will be­come badly stretched and use­less.

When big enough to han­dle, the seedlings can be in­di­vid­u­ally pot­ted into tum­bler- sized con­tain­ers and kept in full sun un­til it is safe enough for them to be planted out­doors.

There are toma­toes for ev­ery pur­pose and ev­ery lo­ca­tion but all need full sun­light to grow and fruit prop­erly. Here are a few of my favourites:

Bush types in­clude the heavy crop­ping Mazano and Reg­gae, both of which carry enor­mous num­bers of egg- sized toma­toes. They are of ex­cel­lent flavour and ideal for sauces, dry­ing or freez­ing whole.

For early crops, the heav­ily ribbed Rouge de Mar­mande is worth a spot. Flavour is out­stand­ing.

For large pots or tubs, First Prize ( Pot Prize) is a mar­vel­lous, sturdy plant with heavy crops of round, tasty toma­toes.

Among the vig­or­ous tree tomato plants, Sweet Bite and Yel­low Cherry are both dis­ease- re­sis­tant and mas­sive crop­pers of ex­tra- sweet, ping- pong ball sized fruit. Per­fect and colour­ful for dot­ting into mixed sal­ads.

My favourite is the strong- grow­ing Mon­ey­Maker be­cause of the great trusses of de­li­cious, round, bright- red toma­toes that form, of­ten al­most to the ground.

If you love big, meaty and bril­liantly flavoured toma­toes, go for Beef­steak. Just one slice can com­pletely cover a slice of toast.

Black Rus­sian is out­stand­ing eat­ing even though the colour is a kind of red­dish-choco­late. Not big crop­pers but worth a place in the veg­etable patch.

The al­most seed­less and strangely coloured, pinkish Ox­heart is an­other favourite of mine. Flavour is truly su­perb.

And if you are able to seek out the seeds or seedlings, plant one or two of a cer­tain, old­fash­ioned va­ri­ety that pro­duces the best- tast­ing toma­toes I’ve ever ex­pe­ri­enced. It is called Aunt Ruby’s Ger­man Green and the trusses are absolutely huge, dense and very heavy.

I got mine last year from the Botan­i­cal Gar­dens Spring Plant Sale and the out­stand­ing flavour of th­ese big, bright- green toma­toes still lingers. This year the sale will be on Satur­day, Septem­ber 21, but you’d bet­ter be early.

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