The humble tomato. Most people only know the few red varieties that are found lurking in the vegetable aisle of the supermarket. They frequently moan that these are watery and tasteless, and they just don't taste like the tomatoes they remember from years ago. This is because the supermarkets just aren't interested in tomatoes that don't have thick skins to survive the rigours of mechanical handing and long distance transport or that don't all ripen at the same time to make picking more efficient.
It is this love of tasty tomatoes that drives us to grow such a wide range of tomatoes. This year we have over 250 varieties, most of which are heirloom varieties, the rare and unusual sorts from all around the world, some even dating back to the 1800's. I know, 250 is a huge choice, but did you know that there are currently over 7500 recognised tomato varieties? Crazy, but true...
So how do you know which variety is the right one for you? Well, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself to work out where to start:
Where are you growing them? In baskets? In pots / growbags? In a greenhouse? Outside in the ground? Trailing or dwarf varieties are best for baskets or pots raised off the ground. If your greenhouse limits the height of the plants, go for medium height ones (same again if the site is windy and the plants can get blown over). Virtually all our varieties can be grown under glass or outside.
What do you want to use them for? If you want to make your own sauces and ketchups, the larger ones are the best. Beefsteaks and plums tend to have a more dense flesh and less seeds, meaning the sauce will be thicker and won't take so long to simmer down nicely. If you want to slice them for sandwiches, then the standard round ones make life easy, with the beefsteaks giving you a sandwich filler with one slice (or an amazing caprese salad). We have virtually hollow ones that are great for stuffing, other that make fantastic sundried tomatoes, and of course, plenty of bite-sized ones great for snacking on.
Below are the cards we have on display at events that show all the varieties we grow, along with the 'tomato matrix' that acts as a quick reference guide to finding the right colour / size / shape / height tomato that people ask us for.
And finally, there is a 13-page guide to growing tomatoes that you can download / print. I sat down and had a think about all the things I've ever been asked about growing tomatoes, and this is what I came up with, all the little things I've picked up along the way, having watched my mum and her father grow tomatoes as far back as I can remember. There is no absolutely right or absolutely wrong way to grow tomatoes (or any other vegetable), so if you find a way that works for you, then stick with it!