Thursday, May 20, 2010

Farewell warm days....sort of..

Well it's the end of spring/summer, no wait it's back again. Ok now it's the end, hang on here's another warm day. Should be autumn now for sure, heck where did this heat wave come from?? It's probably safer to say, it's the end of the spring crop season. This season my green thumb was pointing me in the directions of tomatoes.

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.

From my limited knowledge I'm guessing it's a Black Russian species. Can anyone confirm?

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!
Some other things that we grew this year:

Mandarins. A thinner skinned version with more seeds than your supermarket variety but still nice.

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. 


  1. I have the solution to your possums! Pet Mesh! $75 from Bunnings! If it keeps rats out, surely it will keep possums out too! Glad you featured my cukes (so glad you weren't around to photograph them when they succumbed to some sort of mouldy virus, wilted and died about 15 cucumbers into the season but that's another story). And I love the fact that the hand model makes your crop (while already impressive) look SO much bigger than it actually was! I also loved the 101 on raising tomatoes! All round great blog! :D

  2. First go of planting and you grew that monster tomato - Great job and awesome shots!!

  3. You live in the garden of Eden! Beeeeyuadifoooool as Con the Fruiter would say!

  4. Totally agree on the fabulousness of heirlooms! My favourites are the Johnny Love bites which are so lovely and sweet! :D I can't believe how big that tomato is! :o

  5. Wow, your garden produce is really impressive, especially the size of that tomato AND you have passionfruit! *squeals with joy* passionfruit!

  6. GB: Thanks for the tip. $75 is a bit pricey in my opinion. Being the cheap skate I am, I'll probably just sit up all night in a rocking chair with a water pistol next time. I like to remember the cukes at their pinnacle of glory.

    Shanks: Cheers. You can tell I had a favourite tomato in the bunch that got more love and attention than the rest.

    Yaya: Ha! Con the Fruiter. I can feel my monobrow growing!

    NQN: I'll have to hunt down some of those JLB's next season. The tomato was so huge I thought the vine would break which is why I harvested it early.

    Jen: Yes having passionfruit on demand from your backyard is awesome. Now I just need a pavlova tree to grow next to it and I'll be set!