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Archive for the ‘tomatoes’ Category

Spot the corn on the cob, aubergine, runner beans, tomatoes...

It’s been a long time since I last posted. That’s got quite a bit to do with me upping sticks and moving to France. I’ve spent the past few months with no access to a garden or any space to grow my own, although I did manage the obligatory radishes along with a few tomato plants, an aubergine and a squash in among the flowers in the small bed at the front of the first house I stayed in. Given that almost all the locals have their own potager positively teeming with everything from tomatoes to artichokes, potatoes, cabbage, courgettes, salad leaves, onions and everything in between, I’ve been gazing longingly over the walls of my new-found neighbours since I got here.

Among the most beautiful sights are the rows of Marmande, a French heirloom variety of tomato (more…)

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tomatoesbushI saw this article on commercially grown tomatoes in today’s Sydney Morning Herald. It’s interesting to see how the demands of supermarkets have almost completely eroded taste on the fresh produce front over the years. As a student, I used to work for a medium-scale tomato producer in Ireland. In order to be able to sell to the local branches of a large supermarket chain, he was forced to have his produce delivered to the head office warehouses 200kms away. Once delivered there, it was driven back to the city in question – less than 10kms away from his glass houses…

Obviously, growing your own in a small space won’t keep you in tomatoes all year round, but every time I harvest my own crop I think of the sheer stupidity that all too often overrides everything else in the way we produce and consume our fresh food.

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tomseedlingsOf all the vegetables you can grow for yourself, tomatoes are probably the most rewarding both in terms of crop potential and from a flavour point of view – shop-bought ones are bred for shelf life and pretty much taste that way. Your own, freshly picked toms will have a distinctive aroma and won’t taste like styrofoam. If you get carried away and produce too much, cook up a storm, freeze it and you’ll be eating your produce well into the autumn. You also don’t need much space – toms grow just as happily in containers as in the ground. Here’s how to do it…

Tomatoes grow easily enough from seed but bear in mind that you’ll need to sow in late winter if you don’t want to wait too long for your crops. Assuming, then, that you’re buying a seedling tray (or two) from your local nursery:

To plant into the ground:

Plant into soil that’s been well prepared. This means forking over the ground and removing weeds, big stones and old roots before digging in some compost. Choose a spot that’s relatively sheltered from the elements but which gets decent sunlight (or the tomatoes won’t ripen). Tomatoes like a bit of space and are prone to disease if they don’t get enough air circulating among the leaves, so space them at least 60cms apart, preferably up to 75cms. If you’re lucky enough to have a big garden and want to plant a couple of rows, allow 90cm between them or you’ll end up trampling and bumping into your pride and joy each time you water or go to harvest.

To plant in containers:

One plant per good-sized pot – at least 30cms diameter, but try for 38cms+ if you can. Fill the container with compost (preferably mushroom or other organic-type if possible) to the level of the “lip” or ledge that runs just below the top.

In both cases, carefully remove the seedlings from the tray by pushing from the bottom of the container. Don’t be too rough – a bit of damage to a leaf is usually okay, but stem damage almost inevitably translates into a dead plant. (more…)

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