JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Monday, September 15, 2008

Tasty tomatoes to grow next year

This blighted year has been hopeless for growing tomatoes - what with one thing (slugs) and another (blight), we've had very few, Sungold doing best (although my extremely conservative family would prefer it red, rather than that wonderful yellow).

At the end of August, there was an article in the Telegraph by Sarah Raven about home-grown tomatoes with the best taste. Here are her key findings - now I can chuck out the paper yet still be sure of finding this very sensible list next year.

Her main piece of advice is to grow one or two of several varieties: any tomato dish is better for having a mix of varieties - different shape, colours and sizes, all with varying levels of sweetness and acidity. If you use three or four different forms, your salads will look more attractive, your sauces will be richer, and your tomato jams and chutneys will taste better.

Sungold: truly outstanding. Can be grown inside and out.

Gardener's Delight: Sarah has long championed this tomato, which just beat Super Sweet 100 in her trial this year. Both form long trusses which ripen over a long period for nonstop harvesting.

Black Krim: this tomato comes from Crimea. I've never grown it, but I have eaten it - delicious, once you've got over the monstrous appearance of black skin and startlingly green inside. Sarah says it has good disease resistance, and that it was the last of her outdoor tomatoes to get blight this year.

Costoluto Fiorentino / Costoluto Genovese: two old varieties from Italy, better grown in a greenhouse. Highly productive of large fruit. She says that about one in eight plants will go blind ... mine (outdoors) were the first to get blight this year.

Brandywine: obviously wonderful, but tricky to grow - it only performs well in a greenhouse in a good hot year, and even then only produces small amounts of fruit. Very comforting words to someone who has tried and failed several times to grow this delicious giant fruit.

Tigerella: medium-sized, stripey green and red skin. We got a few of this before the blight struck. Sarah's sister grows this under glass in Edinburgh, Sarah says it can be grown outdoors in the south of England.

Red Alert: outshines all other tumblers in terms of flavour. No need to train, can go in a window box, gives vast amounts of tasty fruit

Sarah also says that she's not going to bother with plum tomatoes next year, as they have a grainy texture, are quite dry and not good eaten raw, even the foodies' favourite, San Marzano, which I don't think is as good as is claimed. The best, she thinks, is the hardier Purple Russian, but she says not as good as any of the others on her list.

Things to do with tomatoes

Roasting tomatoes
Roasted tomato ketchup
Slow roasted tomatoes
Homemade tomato ketchup - and caponata-ish
Chilli jam

Links to tomatoes on other blogs

Fried green tomatoes - haven't you always wanted to know how to make these? Here's how, from the blog at the Whistlestop Cafe
David Lebovitz's take on an heirloom tomato salad
Gazpacho from Kalyn's Kitchen


Angela said...

Truly impressed! We had every intention of keeping this article, but think it must have disappeared into the recycling box. Many thanks for publishing it.

Alexandra said...

Hi Joanna,

I am a massive fan of hte blog (and have sent a link to my dad to take note!). I am working for a cookery school at the moment and would love to contact you about it - do you have an email address? If you don't want to post it, do you think you could drop me a line at

Thanks, Alex

Anonymous said...

Already looking forward to next summer, huh? Tomato season always seems so short doesn't it?