Tomatoes are the most popular homegrown vegetable and there are lots of reasons for this. They are tremendously productive; you can pick fruit over 5 months from one plant. If you grow cherry tomatoes the crop could amount to more than a thousand fruit from that single plant.
When Christopher Columbus delivered the tomato to Europe from the New World, it was called pomodoro the golden apple. Today you can get ripe tomatoes that are yellow, green, purple, black and orange as well as the number one favourite - red.
The deep skin colour is the first clue to the health credentials. The new adage is a
tomato a day keeps the doctor away. Loaded with antioxidants, tomato protects eyes, helps prevent skin and prostate cancer and helps reduce osteoporosis.
And the exciting thing for me is that the best tomato fruits available could come from your own backyard.
Tomatoes love the heat, so spring and summer are prime fruiting times. August and September are the earliest months to get planting. It is a good practice to add a few more plants every month from October to February to extend your picking season out to a possible 8 months.
The Best Locations
Choose a sunny warm spot in the garden. Tomatoes do best when receiving full sun all day up until summer really bites in Perth. This is usually in February when we get a run of temperatures over 35 degrees. If it is possible to cover the plants with shade cloth during these times, it offers great relief to your plants. If planting in early spring or late autumn for winter crops, then try to maximize warmth by planting next to west or north facing walls. The reason: these get an extra hit because of their exposure to afternoon sun as well as radiated and reflected heat.
What are the best varieties to grow?
This depends on how you use tomatoes. At home we grow a truss style table tomato, which gives medium to large size fruit, which are used extensively for salads. When numbers build up we cook up batches and process, via our Thermomix into a paste called pasata, which we freeze. Table tomato varieties that would fit this style include Gross Lisse, Patio Prize (dwarf type), Beefsteak, Apollo, Oxheart, Rouge de Mormande, Black Russian, Burnley Bounty, Mighty Red, Siberian, Moneymaker, Principe Borghese and Tigerella.
Heritage, or Heirloom types as they are called, are old-fashioned varieties preserved by seed saving, which have many fans because of the rich and varied flavours and in some cases, unusual colours. These varieties are fun to grow because the fruits are different and at the table they become a talking point. Included in this list are Mortgage Lifter, Green Zebra, Tommy Toe, Black Russian, Lemon Drop, Amish Paste, San Marzano (dwarf to 1 metre), Grosse Lisse, Grannys Throwing Tomato, Aunty Rubys German Green, Red Russian, Reisentraube, Principe Borghese, Tigerella, Broad Ripple Yellow Currant, Jaune Flamee, Thai Pink Egg,
Paste tomatoes for making pasata - Roma (dwarf to 1 metre), San Marzano, Amish Paste & Principe Borghese.
Cherry types produce small fruits with intensive flavour which makes them good value in salads but also for baking.
Tommy Toes Gen Y, Sweet Bite, Cherry Truss, Yellow Pear, Grape, Sugar Lump, Honeybee, Yellow Cherry, Red Russian, Reisentraube, Red Fig, Black Cherry, Broad Ripple Yellow currant, Cherry Roma & Thai Pink Egg