Monday 17 August 2015

Tomato Update

As usual, I've grown a range of tomato varieties this year, all lined up across my patio. They're barely ripe yet - I'm still waiting on four out of the five varieties to redden - but it's looking like a pretty good crop on the way!

The first variety, nearest my door, is Skykomish, an open-pollinated variety from Real Seeds that is supposed to be blight resistant. Unfortunately it's the least vigorous of the lot, hasn't grown very tall, and has the least fruit on it (fruit set seems poor) - and it's always had a few sickly-looking yellowy leaves! The fruits are a real mix of sizes, but there are a few nice big ones so hopefully it will be worthwhile in the end...

The next is Indigo Rose, the black tomato bred to be very high in antioxidants (anthocyanins, like in blueberries). The dark leaves and black fruits look rather dramatic and prompted lots of questions when I had friends round for a barbecue, but the plants have always looked rather stressed, with curled leaves, no matter how I've cared for them!

Whatever the problem is, it hasn't stopped the plant producing an abundance of fruit on looong trusses. They look black from any distance, but if you peek underneath, where the sun don't shine, they have green patches, and it's these I'm watching to check for ripeness - they should turn red eventually...

In the middle is Angelle, my trusty favourite from seeds saved from hybrid supermarket toms. I used to save the seed from year to year but they got more and more susceptible to blight with each generation, so I've started again from the hybrid this year. They're performing as well as before and are the most vigorous (and tallest) of the bunch, with huge trusses of small plum-shaped toms - and they've been the first to ripen!

We have a few Angelle plants in a plastic greenhouse on the allotment too, and under cover they ripened even quicker - we've had a few harvests from them now while we're only just about to start picking the ones at home.

Next in line is heirloom Amish Paste, a great tom for cooking (though I like it sliced as well), with vigorous plants and huuuge fruits!

I've had my first-ever experience of blossom-end rot this year with these - my watering habit must have slipped! - but thankfully only lost one truss of fruits, and I've been extra careful to water well since to prevent it from happening again. Blossom-end rot is caused by a lack of calcium, but it's rarely actually a shortage of calcium in the soil; more often lack of good transport through the plant's system, due to a shortage of water.

Finally, Dr Carolyn, another Real Seeds heirloom which I love, and they're doing really well. They're not as productive as some other varieties, but they're delicious!

I had the dreaded notification from Blightwatch at the weekend that my area was experiencing a 'Smith period' - perfect conditions for blight to develop - so I'm watching them carefully now for any signs. I'm disappointed that we've reached this stage already and I've harvested so few ripe toms so far - I think I need to choose an early variety or two next year so I can start picking sooner. In the meantime, I've cut a lot of the leaves off these plants to try to speed ripening - really I should have started this sooner so that air circulation around the plants was better when the conditions for blight struck. I've taken off everything below the first truss and leaves which crossed over and touched each other a lot, and I've taken off leaves which shaded the fruits a lot.

It's only been a day since I did it and I'm sure I can see new tinges of colour appearing already, so hopefully it's working! But when blight does strike, I'll be ready to pick lots of the toms green and use them in chutney, green chilli and whatever other green tomato recipes I can drag up!
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