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

Documenary review: Growing Change

This commodification of food by industrial agriculture has created a chasm between the grower and the  consumer. But now there’s a change. People want to close that gap in.
– Costa Georgiadis

How will the world feed itself in the future?

Is it possible to grow a fair and sustainable food system?

This film shows an experiment in how to create that change with promising solutions.

In Venezuela, from fishing villages to cocoa plantations to urban gardens, a growing social movement is showing what’s possible when communities, not corporations, start to take control of food.

Sydney filmmaker Simon Cunich went on a 12-month journey from community gardens in Sydney to farming co-operatives in Venezuela.

This documentary has a wonderful positive message. It stands there right next to the now classic Power of Community.

Highly recommended.

Growing Change

Getting started growing Bananas in Queensland

bananas3-new

Unfortunately due to an overwhelming demand since Cyclone Yasi, there is a six month waiting list for banana plants! So I’m going to have to put my banana growing plans on hold. Here’s some of the information I discovered while conducting research.

Bananas require full sunlight for most of the day. They do best is a sheltered area where the roots will not become flooded. The best time to plant is from September to mid-December.

They require a large amount of plant nutrients to grow and fruit. (800 grams of lime, 240 gram of urea, 30 grams of super

Residential growers in south Queensland require a permit to grow a maximum of 10 plants. Permits are free of charge and made to Biosecurity (currently part of the Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries).

The only permitted varieties are:

  • Blue Java – Silvery wax bloom, white flesh, dessert and cooking
  • Bluggoe (plantain or cooking banana) – angular fruit
  • Kluai Namwa Khom (Dwarf Ducasse) – fragrant sweet flavour, dessert and cooking, very vigorous. Referred to as sugar banana.
  • Goldfinger – tangy tasting, doesn’t turn brown when cut
  • Ladyfinger – drought hardy, long shelf life, dessert type, sweet creamy flesh
  • Pissang Ceylan -pinkish midribs on leaves, agreeably sweet acid

There is currently only ONE supplier in Queensland – Blue Sky Backyard Bananas – each plant costs $30 each including postage.

Further information

Agrilink produce a Tropical banana information kit as a series of PDFs. The kit provides information on all aspects of growing tropical bananas in Queensland.

Jerry Coleby-Williams has written a Fact Sheet: Growing Bananas for the ABC Gardening website.

Raspberries in Brisbane

native-raspberry

I bought a new raspberry plant this weekend from the Ferny Grove markets. I sent the last one up to Toowoomba where I hope the frost will help it fruit better, as I was having no luck with it.

The advice I got from the grower was that raspberries in Brisbane need to be the non-frosting kind. I bought a Bogong, but he was also selling Autumn Bliss. He said you can grow your raspberries on a trellis, and pinch out the tips if you want to grow it as an espalier.

We did get some fruit on our native raspberry but not enough to make a meal of them. You can buy them from Northey Street.

Fast fruit for impatient gardeners

Annette McFarlane has a useful list of fast fruit for impatient gardeners:

  • Babaco
  • Banana
  • Berry fruit
  • Blueberry
  • Mulberry
  • Passionfruit
  • Pawpaw
  • Red currant
  • Tamarillo

Can you think of any other fruit trees which produce fruit quickly?

Organic Fruit Growing
– by Annette McFarlane

Bananas in coconut milk

Growing bananas in Queensland unfortunately requires a permit. Home growers are allowed up to ten plants, which sounds like plenty to me. We  probably won’t ever grow any in our backyard, which is a shame as I always find it hard to pick the optimal time to eat a banana. Lady Fingers are easy – Maggie recommends waiting until they are half black and then devouring them. The shops usually only stock Cavendish and sometimes Ladies. I’m yet to try all these other varieties: Blue Java, Bluggoe (plantain or cooking banana), Ducasse, Goldfinger, Kluai Namwa Khom (Dwarf Ducasse), Pisang Ceylan and Red Dacca. I feel like I’m missing out….. anyone tried these?

small tin of coconut milk
2 tbsps sugar
2 bananas, chopped

  1. Put the coconut milk, sugar and ¼ cup of water into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer.
  2. When the sugar has dissolved, add the bananas.
  3. Gently cook until the bananas are soft.
  4. Serve half the mixture in a bowl, either warm or at room temperature.

Serves 2.

Written for DK‘s A Worldly Epicurean’s delight in short A.W.E.D Thai Event