This Saturday, 22 May is the International Day for Biological Diversity. So I hope this post tempts people to get out there and try a heirloom.
Mixed box of heirloom tomatoes from Eveleigh markets.
I've never grown my own tomatoes before but people were always telling me it was easy. Doing my own research on the internet it all sounded a bit daunting. Beware the descending swarms of aphids, don't shock the roots during planting, water daily or the fruits may split, keep the plant off the ground to avoid fungus, pinch the suckers, prune the plant to concentrate sugars to the fruit but don't prune it when you have fruits else you may get sunscald. arrrgh! The most helpful advice I got from one of these websites was this - 'just have a go'. So in that frame of mind I went to a nursery to pick up a plant.
Next challenge, which type of tomato to plant. Beefsteak, roma, plum, cherry tomatoes, the list went on and on. In the end i decided on a nursery branded plant which just said tomato plant on the label. Heck at only $2 for the pot what did I have to lose.
I got home and planted it in a nice sunny area and was surprised at how fast it grew! Like a new parent, I gave it constant attention, watering it daily, pinching off any suckers I could find, shaking the leaves daily to mess up the aphids egg laying cycle but in the end I was more like a parent of a second child with the attitude of 'she'll be right'. And she was! What a wonder, witnessing a fruit develop and ripen on a vine. It looked like I had hit the jackpot with a heirloom species too. For $2 what a bargain!
Comparison of one of mine with one I picked up at Eveleigh markets. Mines the bigger one on the right with the stretch marks. =)
Taste the best straight off the vine and still warm from the sun.
In the end I didn't have to be too concerned about doing everything right. I think you'll still get a crop even if the fungus is attacking your roots and the aphids are eating your leaves. Sure the tomatoes may have been bigger and the crop more plentiful but with all my mistakes I still got 16 good sized eating tomatoes and all from a $2 plant.
Some of the final harvest. Ones that ripened earlier were already consumed with gusto.
Midge hand modeling with a standard size tomato from the harvest.
Midge hand modeling the big mamma of the group at a whopping 10.5cm in diameter.
Snooty possum sampled my crop and didn't like what he tasted.
So the tally in the end: Me - 16, Fails due to act of god - 7, Fails due to snooty possum - 4.
Tips from my experience:
- Snooty possums with sharp teeth will not be deterred by fly screen netting, no matter how much time you spend sowing those little bags up.
- To avoid disappointment, pick them a little under ripe and leave indoors to ripen in an area without direct sunlight.
- Never ever EVER put your tomatoes into the fridge. Something happens to the sugars in the tomato that is beyond my year 9 chemistry education, but results in bruising.
- Serve with a buffalo mozzarella and basil. yum!
Mandarins. A thinner skinned version with more seeds than your supermarket variety but still nice.
Passionfruit.Walking into Bunnings I asked the gentleman at the door where I could find the passionfruit plants. He looked at me in horror and said 'why would you want one of those?? they grow everywhere and are impossible to get rid of'. My argument was 'but they product passionfruit'. I rest my case.
Sweet corn. Watch out for the very well camoflagued green caterpillars!!
Lotus flowers. Roots were a bit old and inedible.
They only open for a few days but a really cool looking plant.
Gummi Baby had her sights on cucumber this year. Apparently they just pop up over night. One day they are a tiny little thing like below:
Is this where pickled gerkins come from?
And the next day they are fully grown!
Overall a great season of growing and eating.