Many years ago I was introduced to a centenarian. When I asked her the secret of her longevity and good health and spirits, she responded, “Tomatoes. Just tomatoes. I eat them every day.”
Although out-of-season, imported tomatoes have improved considerably in quality over the years, there is nothing quite like the taste of freshly picked local tomatoes. We try to produce our first tomatoes in June each year in our poly tunnels. These are grown organically in soil enriched by well-composted cattle manure and produce sweet flavoursome fruit.
Each year we try different varieties with a mix of cherry, mainstream, plum and beef tomatoes. We plant both commercial and heritage varieties and often try different growing methods. Last year we tried letting baby plum tomato plants grow completely freely in a poly tunnel bed. Initially it was quite a mess and we thought about removing this untidy jungle of plants which seemed to be doing everything but produce fruit. However, eventually the experiment came good and we were rewarded by a very late crop of plum tomatoes, long after the better trained commercial plants had finished fruiting.
Outdoor tomatoes have always been a bit of a gamble especially in the north and west, but with the benefit of our hotter summers, we are finding that Marmande or beef tomatoes are now tending to grow better outside than in. We hedge our bets most years by growing both inside and outside.
We don’t know yet whether our tomatoes promote longevity, but they certainly make for good eating.