Top choice for tasty tomatoes
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.