Saturday, July 19, 2008

First Toms

It's been a strange tomato growing season.

Well, so was last year. Last year's summer was achingly hot and bone dry. My tomato crop was miles below par - not much fruit and a lot of it stunted. I wasn't alone. Adriana, who runs a commercial market garden just outside the town walls, had exactly the same problem. She didn't have enough tomatoes - or any other vegies, for that matter - to supply her regular customers.

This year, spring was the coolest and wettest in either 20 or 200 years. Depending to whom you speak. Suddenly, though, in mid-June, the daytime temperatures shot from an average 18C to around 30C. We somehow missed the 20s altogether.

The result? The plants that had started to set fruit were all right. Those that hadn't, struggled in the sudden, intense heat. End result? They weren't setting fruit:

The luckier ones did:

The yellows on the top RHS are Jaune Negib, a French heirloom. They're a very early variety - usually around 60 days from planting out - and their major flavour attribute is a lovely creamy aftertaste. Most very early varieties - Stupice and the like - are usually flavour-deficient because, developing and ripening quickly, as their genes insist they do, they simply don't have the time to develop real flavour or complexity. They're really only worth growing if you have a very short growing season and later varieties aren't viable. Jaune Negib, though, is rare amongst very early varieties because they do have something to offer in the flavour department. Even if I only grow them for L'artista to turn into yellow tomato chutney.

The gold/orange pair - one its usual golf-ball size, the other a freak midget - at the bottom are Jaune Flammée, yet another French heirloom. A lovely, much overlooked tomato with a fresh, very tangy flavour. The surprise is that they matured as early as they did. Normally they take longer than Jaune Negib.

The two red cherry tomatoes are actually conjoined Camp Joy (aka Chadwick's Cherry):

Siamese tomatoes. Take two tomato blossoms extremely close together, have them both fruit at the same time, and the resultant tomatoes can fuse together. Grow enough tomatoes and you'll see plenty of conjoined ones. These two are smaller than the usual Camp Joy, hence they ripened earlier than Camp Joy usually does. They normally takes up to 75 days. Here's one ripening on the vine:

I've grown most of the well-known cherry varieties over the years and I keep coming back to Camp Joy (aka Chadwick's Cherry) for their genuine flavour, reliability and huge crops.

Now I have my fingers crossed for the stragglers to start setting fruit.


Robyn said...

I'm about to start making the Yellow Tomato Chutney - I hope you have enough tomatoes!

Anonymous said...

Not an ardent follower of Don Burke, I am, this year, trying the tomato he rated "The Best For Home Gardeners." It's in a shrub tub and already has small green fruits. It will be interesting to see how well it does in this area, since Mr.B. lives in rural NSW!(I think it's a popular Italian variety.)

The Gardener said...

Yes, I remember the fuss Don Burke made about his Italian tomato a few years ago. He returned from Italy saying he'd discovered the perfect tomato.

He calls it Costoluto di Marmande. There are any number of Costoluto-named Italian tomatoes - Costoluto Genovese, Costoluto Fiorentino, etc. Costoluto means "ribbed" in Italian, describing the tomato's ribbing.

But there's no Costoluto di Marmande in Italy. Marmande is certainly a tomato variety but it's French. And ribbed.

I expect that Don's tomato is either a straight Marmande or a cross between one of the Italian Costoluto varieties and a Marmande. Meaning it's more than likely a hybrid.

If it's anything like either the Italian Costoluto varieties or the French Marmande, it should grow into quite a tall plant and produce toms in the order of 400g and reasonably tasty. It should take between 80 and 90 days from planting out to maturity.