One of my favourite veggies ( and yes, I know, it’s also a fruit, and bananas are herbs and all sorts of other specific sciencey definitions that make it hard to actually categorise the food you eat! Rather than labelling ‘salad’ as its own category, we’ll just agree to call it a veggie, ok?) is the tomato. It is so versatile, can be used in most dishes to add flavour, colour and health (lots of Vitamin C and antioxidants, they tell me). So, it is definitely a key focus for my veggie garden. I remember growing cherry tomatoes as a kid, but not much about their success rate, which makes me think it wasn’t high! Thankfully, times have changed!
Alas, this post suffers from the same ‘when did I actually plant these things’ as the cucumber, but thankfully I have improved, I logged all the veggies I planted a couple of weeks ago, so you can look forward to accurately dated discussions about the growing time of zucchini, capsicum, broccoli and shallots in future posts!
My best guess is that I planted these babies in late July/early August, as I remember a trip to the garden shop around that time. I planted some heirloom varieties, which even the packet admits are completely random, in terms of not being able to predict which varieties have actually been planted! By 1 October, they had become the large beauties you see here:
Now, I have an ongoing problem with depth perception/the ability to correctly gauge how big a vessel I need for something, with the result that a large amount of things I cook require a change of pot at some point (usually after I add the one ingredient too many that breaks the camel’s back!) This problem also carries over to the garden, as it often takes me a while to admit that the particular plant requires a bigger pot – it’s usually my lovely and observant husband who makes the suggestion. So, as you can see in the above photo, the tomatoes were very clearly outgrowing their shallow pot. Little did we know, however, that transplanting them would lead to this triffid-like situation!
These are the tomato plants at the end of November, a few weeks post-transplant – clearly very happy in their new pot! The plants required staking early on, as they grow quite tall – we actually had to buy bigger stakes to accommodate the plants!
So, at this point I wondered whether I should trim/prune them in some fashion – they were growing lots of yellow flowers, which I noticed were leading to little tomatoes at the base, but I wanted to ensure that they continued to do so (and I wanted to tame the triffids somewhat!) Trusty Google informed me that to prune tomatoes, cut the leaves off below the first lot of flowers, as well as the ones that are growing randomly and uselessly at 45 degrees. I ruthlessly chopped off multiple branches, reducing the thicket and seemingly keeping the plants happy. There are 3 main plants, but as I pruned rather late in the abundant growth, there are 2-3 large branches on each plant, all producing fruit, but protruding rather rakishly (and annoyingly when you need to walk past to hang out washing) to the side. Lesson learnt, next time I will try and train my plants better!
Anyway, by mid-December, the first actual tomatoes were in glorious evidence (although not yet ripened):
It took another few weeks for these lovely specimens to ripen, I think the large amount of rain and less heat in December, as well as the general unpredictability of heirloom varieties delayed it. But seemingly overnight, after bring stubbornly green for many weeks, they changed colour!
However, most excitingly, over the past week we have enjoyed 4 multicoloured and delicious tomatoes! They have been added to salads, tacos, other veggies and enjoyed by themselves – they seem to ripen at different times, so we are only getting one every couple of days at the moment, but they are lovely!
There seem to be two main types so far – the light red with a green top, and the yellow ones – I initially thought they were going to ripen red, but when Jon and I fondled them (it’s important to have a helper when fondling veggies for ripeness, for consistency and suggestive comments purposes!), they were ripe, so that is clearly their colour! Here the yellow one joins some zucchini and carrot, cut using the Betty Bossi gadget, then lightly sautéed with a bit of olive oil, homegrown basil and society garlic, then served alongside some crispy skin ocean trout – superb!
And , the harvest is just beginning – there are currently 15 tomatoes at various stages of growth on the various plants – I planted a few additional plants in around September, so there are a few extra producers out there, with the original plants still going strong! The flowers produce little tomatoes at their base, which push out, and the flower then dies and the full tomato lives on! The marigolds you will notice in the below photos are because marigolds are a great companion plant for tomatoes, they do something to the soil to keep them mutually happy!
So, tomatoes, relatively easy to grow, in full sun, plenty of water (they appear to be very thirsty plants), stake as needed and then prune once flowers appear to encourage the plants to focus on tomato production! The taste is amazing, so much richer and more flavoursome than any you will buy!