How to grow tasty tomatoes

Guest post by The Diggers Club

tomato tasting

About the Taste Test

The Diggers Club conducted a tomato taste test to see whether heirloom tomatoes could beat the supermarket hybrids. The taste test was held in February 2013 at the Adelaide Botanic Garden, with South Australian garden experts, and cooks and gardeners invited.

Supermarket hybrids are usually dwarf bushy varieties which are easier to machine harvest and are bred for long-distance shipping. Being dwarf varieties they are invariably low in flavour with short harvest periods. The tasty long-harvest period heirloom tomatoes are indeterminate, with lateral branches that continue to grow and therefore need support.

The seeds from these heirloom tomatoes bred in back yards over hundreds of years hold a continuous unbroken link to our history.

The Results

The top ten Diggers Club Tomato Taste Test results were all heirlooms:

Rank Variety Colour Size
=1 Hungarian Heart Pink Oxheart
=1 Jaune Flamme Orange Apricot
2 Tommy Toe Red Apricot
3 Black Cherry Purple-Black Cherry
4 Wild Sweetie Red Pea
5 Wapsipinicon Peach Opaque Apricot
6 Lemon Drop Lemon Grape
7 Ananas Noir Yellow/Black Beefsteak
8 Black Russian Black Apricot
9 Periforme / Granny’s Throwing Red Large pear
10 Purple Smudge Orange Beefsteak

We had three Italian Chef/food experts who rated Italian red heirloom Periforme the best, in preference to highly coloured heirlooms.

tomatoes in basket

Growing tomatoes

Tomatoes are easy to grow with 6 hours of sunshine per day in friable, well drained soil.

  • Sow seed into Jiffy or Peat Pots 6 weeks before transplanting to minimise transplant root disturbance. All but dwarf varieties need support.
  • Being frost sensitive they need minimum 15 degrees C soil temperature for up to 21 growing weeks. Plant out at 1 metre spacing.
  • Heirlooms will fruit from January for 3-4 months in cool climates and all year around in hot climates, hence the ubiquitous supermarket ‘winter’ tomato!

Summary

The first eighteen varieties preferred were all heirlooms from Hungry, France, Italy, Russia and America, and seven of the bottom eight were red commercial varieties from the South Australian market. Since the 1993 taste test which was won by Tommy Toe, fourteen varieties were regarded as better than the garden standard Grosse Lisse.

Would you pay four hundred times the price of heirlooms to an overseas corporation when you can save your seeds and replant for nothing?

Guest post by The Diggers Club

The Diggers Club top five heirloom tomatoes

A good tomato is one the fruits early and continues to yield over a long period. Our trials at Diggers prove heirloom tomatoes fruit earlier, have a higher yield and their flavour is preferred to commercial hybrids.

Here are a few of our favourite heirlooms:

tigerella

Tigerella: The best yielding tomato we have ever grown! It produces around 20 kilos of fruit per plant. The flavour is excellent, it fruits early and the ‘tiger stripes’ are very eye catching. One packet of seed could produce around 500kg of fruit!

green-zebra

Green Zebra: A tomato with a built in colour marker that produces yellows stripes indicating ripeness. This modern heirloom has been bred by Tom Wagner and created huge interest when we first introduced it in 1991. It’s an early tomato, and the green colour confuses the pests. One of the most beautiful, and now a classic, heirlooms.

jaune-flamme

Jaune Flamme: This jewel-coloured heirloom from France produces trusses of orange fruit very early in the season. For tomato guru, Amy Goldman, ‘Flamme can do no wrong. Unsurpassed for flavour and appearance.’

black-cherry

Black Cherry: Dark, sweet and juicy fruit makes them look just like cherries. The round and exceptionally sweet fruit is of the highest standard. It shows good disease resistance and is a strong a vigorous plant.

amish-paste

Amish Paste: Heirloom tomato expert David Cavagnaro rates Amish Paste 100 out of 100; the perfect score. Originating in the gardens of Amish communities, this has a rich sweet flavour for salads but is meaty enough for sauces.

Guest post by The Diggers Club

Restaurant review: South Bank Surf Club

southbank_surfclub_fishnchips

It was a little strange to walk through the French Festival and not sample any of the food, but we were on our way to the South Bank Surf Club for lunch.

It was an obvious choice, but we both ended up ordering the Surf Club Fish and Chips. The service was friendly and excellent, and our food arrived quickly in clam shaped dishes. My Mulloway fillets had a good beer batter, although it was just starting to go brown. The fish inside was cooked to perfection. The tartar sauce was on the mild side, but moorish nevertheless. Big M said the meal was let down by run-of-the-mill chips, and thought it could be improved with homemade ones.

The décor was clean and modern, and I love their motto of “life savour”. It would be good if they had their own toilets rather than using the communal Southbank ones. We were surprised to see a busy Ben O’Donoghue in the kitchen.

southbank_surfclub_choconemesis

I ordered the infamous chocolate nemesis for dessert. A decadent mousse-like cake invented by the River Café – even the crème fraiche wasn’t enough to cut through the richness and bitterness of the chocolate (and I’m a self-confessed dark chocoholic). It was still an guilty enjoyable treat.

My peppermint tea came with an unusual strainer, and we couldn’t work out how to use it!

Let’s hope the Surf Club will revitalise the Southbank dining scene – with a few little tweaks, I’m confident it will become a firm favourite with the locals in the nearby high rises and throughout Brisbane.

South Bank Surf Club
30aa Stanley Plaza
Parklands, South Brisbane 4101
Phone: 07 3844 7301
http://www.southbanksurfclub.com.au/
@SthBankSouthClub

South Bank Surf Club on Urbanspoon

Planting by the moon

Our seed potatoes went in on the weekend. I bought them months ago from The Lost Seed and they arrived in four neat brown paper bags. I was worried they’d gone bad or green in the back of the cupboard, and we really have missed the prime months for planting spuds. Matt declared himself in charge of the potatoes and he selected four of our local market favourites – Pink Eyes, King Edwards, Nicola and Kipfler. We shouldn’t have worried, the tubers were bursting with sprouting buds and more then ready to go in. Our only worry now is that perhaps we might have too many!

Today was the day before a full moon, and according to my “Astrological Calendar and Moon Planting Guide” by Thomas Zimmer, it’s a perfect time to sow “fruiting annuals – those vegetables which you want to produce abundant seed, or the seed bearing organ of the plant.”

We both got home early from work, and set about planting out our first three beds. The plantings were based on The Diggers Club article “The Mini-Plot“[PDF] and what in suitable for Brisbane’s climate in November.

Bed one:

Bed two:

Bed three:

  • Squash: White Scallop
  • Beans: Lost Seed Runner Scarlet Emperor x 12; Aqua Dulce Broad Bean x 12
  • Eggplant: The Diggers Club Listada Di Gandia x4
  • Rosella: Eden x 3
  • Eggplant: Cima Viola x 4

We ended up swapping the carrots for squash, beetroot for eggplant and rosella. In the perennial bed, we swapped the artichoke and asparagus (we don’t like either) for watermelon and rockmelon. The potatoes took up half the bed, but that’s ok because we’ve got two lots of rhubarb in pots.

In retrospect, we were thinking it might have been better to space out the timing of the plantings so that everything doesn’t come up at once. Oh the enthusiasm of naivety :-).

The Challenge

About a year and a half ago we bought a house and our interest in gardening blossomed. It was a natural progression that our love of food would lead to wanting to try to grow our own organic produce. Ultimately, we were interested in finding out how hard it would be to become self-sufficient without giving up our day jobs, moving to the country or growing dread-locks.

We wanted to know whether two amateur gardeners could grow enough fruit and vegetables to feed themselves within a year.

We wanted to follow The Diggers Club article on being self-sufficient in “Growing your Own Heirloom Vegetables”. It explains in perfect detail how to “Convert your lawn into a food garden” [PDF]. The author Clive Beazley claims you can grow 254kg of fruit and vegetables in just over 10 metres cubed. The average consumption of fruit and vegetables per person in Australia is 242kg (according to ABS).

We’re aiming for 236kg* of fruit and vegetables on one tank, for one couple in one year.

We’re going to loosely follow the The Diggers Club instructions, substituting fruit and vegetables for ones suited to Brisbane’s climate and our tastes. We hope to inspire others to dig for dinner.