Want better-tasting tomatoes, and more of them? Treat them mean and keep them craving more, says Toby
ALWAYS Leave them wanting more,’ as the circus showman Barnum once said. Wise words… hopefully ignored by anaesthetists, but essential for gardeners growing tomatoes.
And I should know, as getting tomatoes that hark from the warmer climes of Italy and the USA to fruit isn’t easy. This year, I’ve a colourful clutch of heritage varieties in my greenhouse, such as beefsteak ‘Golden Dixie’, the Russian ‘Black Plum’, plus yellow ‘Lemon Tree’ and the Italian ‘Grappoli d’Inverno’.
I’m particularly excited about this last one. The name translates as ‘winter grapes’ because the oval, cherry fruits store for four-six weeks after picking. This can be even longer if the vines are hung as the Italian farmers do it, in a sunny window for the tomatoes to dry.
My friend Gabby grew them with great success last year, and although their firm flesh isn’t good fresh, when roasted or reduced in a pan their flavour transforms.
But getting the best from this ‘glutbuster’ requires restraint. Overindulge a beefsteak from Bologna or a plum from Pasadena with liquid feed and water, and you’ll create a leafy triffid that won’t crop even by the end of summer.
However, the same tom kept on strict rations, with its compost allowed to dry between watering and fed only when the leaves start to pale, will produce tomatoes from a much younger age.
All the tomatoes I’m growing are cordons, trained as a single stem against a cane with all side-shoots regularly removed. Cordon varieties are also labelled on the seed packs as