Tomato Megablooms

Megablooms are when two or more flowers fuse together to create a single bloom from which larger fruit can form. As they are independent flowers, they have to be individually pollinated and the resulting fruit will normally be misshapen and may experience “catfacing” or “zippering”.

Our experience is that megablooms tend to occur on the early flowers of beefsteak tomatoes which tends to support the idea that megablooms are due to plant stress caused by cool temperatures or temperature variation.

Some people remove these blooms from their plants but we can’t see any reason to do so. Yes, catfaced fruit need peeling to get rid of deformities but to be honest that’s not a problem and if you’re trying to grow large fruit, its the only answer.

Posted in Growing Tomatoes, Questions & Answers | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Recipe – Tasty Carrot Soup

Whilst there are many carrot soup recipes, this simple recipe is made tastier by the fact that they are roasted first to give that edge of caramelisation adding a touch of bitterness which is complemented by the bay and rosemary.

Its simple to make, takes about an hour (including preparation) and is a good way of using up excess and imperfect carrots.

Ingredients (for four servings)

  • 800g Carrots
  • Oil
  • 1 Onion or leek
  • 1-2 garlic cloves
  • 1-2 Bay Leaves
  • 2-3 Sprigs of Rosemary
  • 1tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1-1.5l chicken or vegetable stock

Method

  • Clean & roughly chop the carrots, toss them in some oil and put them in the oven at 200C on a tray for 30 minutes or so until slightly browned.
  • Meanwhile fry off the chopped onions & garlic in a large saucepan, stir in the chopped rosemary leaves and the smoke paprika.
  • When the carrots are done add them and the stock to the saucepan and simmer until everything is soft (around 10 minutes).
  • Finally whizz everything with a stick blender until its smooth. You can add more water if you like your soup thinner and add a swirl of cream if you like.

That’s it. It keeps in the fridge for a couple of days or can be frozen to be defrosted another day.

Posted in Recipe | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

End of the Tomato Season – 2020

The season is over, all the plants are pulled up and the harvest processed, stored and ready for use over the winter.

Its been a peculiar year for a number of (largely unrelated) reasons. I terms of the size of the crop, its been good (a total of just over 40kg of useable tomatoes of various sizes and colours). I’m slightly surprised at this because my plants have been affected by some form of disease which I have at various times thought to be blight, wilt or bacterial canker. After all my searching through the web and asking others what they thought, I remain perplexed. It certainly wasn’t late blight because the plants (whilst “poorly”) survived and the fruit ripened successfully. However, the fruit had the small “halo” marks typical of bacterial canker (as far as I can tell) but they all seemed to survive and tasted as good as I would expect.

I had more plants than I would normally have grown because COVID-19 prevented me from offloading plants to my children as I would normally expect so their plants (all determinate varieties) added to the plants grown at home.

More of those plants were grown outdoors as my polytunnel after many years of service succumbed to the wind and the cover split. Its now been converted to a netting cover which keeps the squirrels out but does nothing about the weather. Again, the original plan was to plant strawberries but COVID got in the way of my purchasing. Growing them in the greenhouse meant that there wasn’t room for any peppers, something I need to correct next year.

The Good, The Bad and The Indifferent?

There are some tomato cultivars I try to grow every year because I like them. Then there are new varieties which I haven’t grown before and finally there are the bulk tomatoes, grown to make up the numbers and make sure there are enough tomatoes to eat, freeze & chutney. (I’ve tried to colour code the next bit).

Successes for the year have been: Brown Berry; Darby Stripe; Green Grapes; Marizol Gold; Oleron Yellow; Rosella; Sandpoint; Summer Cider

So all of these go forward to 2021

Failures have been: Brad’s Atomic; Ildi; Lemon Tree; Pink Brandywine; Tumbling Tom Red

Brad’s Atomic was a complete failure. The fruits were soft and squidgy and really poor tasting they didn’t even look nice. Lemon Tree had the typically mealy flavour of many yellow tomatoes and a very thick skin which didn’t help. Ildi, Pink Brandywine and Tumbling Tom Red just didn’t crop very well.

All the others have done acceptably well but really not the “stand-out” success one would hope for: Ailsa Craig; Bloody Butcher; Blue Ambrosia; Crimson Crush; Dancing with Smurfs; Father Frost; Garden Pearl; Gardener’s Delight; Heinz 9129; Kumato; Maskotka; Mortgage Lifter; Mountain Magic (F2); Principe Borghese; Quedliberger Fruhe Liebe; Red Robin; Tiny Tim.

Now the above is based mainly upon flavour and quantity. However, I will say that Kumato, Blue Ambrosia and Dancing with Smurfs probably deserve a second chance. Whilst their flavour is nothing to write home about, their colour is different enough to make them of interest.

In addition, Bloody Butcher I grow because I like the fact that its early (but this year it wasn’t particularly early beaten by Maskotka and a couple of others and Mortgage Lifter, I just like the story behind it.

Next Year (2021)

Because my plants got “something” I’m not taking part in the tomato seed swap this year (I wouldn’t want to distribute some disease). I’m also going to have to make sure all my pots, tubs & greenhouses are squeakily cleansed and use new compost (I usually half fill my growing pots with garden compost and that could be the source). So, unless I buy some seed, I won’t have a range of new varieties to try. I also want to make sure I’ve space for some peppers (as well as cucumbers and physalis) so that will (potentially) mean fewer plants.

Thus I need to concentrate on plants that crop well and tasted nice for their use.

Posted in Blog, Greenhouse, Tomato Cultivars | Leave a comment

Split Apples

I don’t normally write about our apple trees (apart from the fight to stop magpies and squirrels eating them) but this is something new to me and shows how the weather has been somewhat strange this year.

Split Discovery Apples

As you can see our apples have split. We have (what I think is) a Discovery Apple tree which (when not attacked by the squirrels) produces a wonderful crop of apples from the end of August through until November. They’re tasty and when ripe the flesh is red. (The tree has a “sunny side” and a “shaded side” and the sunny side produces an early crop and the shaded side a later crop).Normally more apples than we can eat raw but they cook and dry well so our puddings are decided for two months and more and drying them gives me something to eat with my cereal in the morning and instead of snacking on crisps. However, this year (for the first time and the tree is 25 years old) they’ve split. The problem (apparently) is uneven watering. There’s nothing I can do about it (the suggestion seems to be to lay a thick layer of mulch but that hardly works in a lawn). I’ll look out for it in future years.

This year has been a good year, the fruit has ripened well and we’ve had a wonderful crop of acorns on our oak tree which has tempted the squirrels away from the apples. However, as you can see, they cropped early and the rain in late September and early October has reduced the crop,

Posted in Blog, Garden | Tagged | Leave a comment

End September 2020 – Really coming to the end of the season

I seem to keep writing that the season is coming to an end, then it doesn’t. More of the tomatoes have finished and the plants have been pulled up but there still seem to be some to come. The outdoor bush varieties are making their way into the greenhouses as plants in the greenhouse are taken up and disposed of (this year I’m putting most of the plants into the council bin as we had bacterial canker and I don’t want it in the compost to be recirculated in subsequent years.

In a later post, I’ll have a discussion about which tomatoes have impressed me this year but I can say that one that I won’t grow again is Brad’s Atomic Cherry. This was supposed to be the “go to” cherry of the year, weird colour, slicing, high volume, etc., etc., etc.. However, it was a disappointment. I thought it was supposed to go “blue” but it was a sort of murky brown stripe which didn’t pick easily off the vine, didn’t taste all that good and didn’t keep at all well. Now, that could of course be my fault, letting them go overripe would give all of those symptoms but the ones picked earlier were bitter and didn’t taste nice. I’m sure that other people will have had more success and its my sense of taste which is at fault but there will have to be something special to encourage me to try them again.

We’re up to 37kg of fruit (and I’ve excluded the Brad’s Atomic from that weight) which is quite pleasing, its a matter of when the frosts come but most of the plants are “very poorly” with whatever has gone through them this year.

As for the rest of the garden, I’m glad I planted runner beans, something I’ve not grown for a number of years as they tagged-on to the end of the French Beans and have ended up giving a longer supply of green beans than would otherwise have been the case. Most of the dwarf french beans have now been pulled up and the climbing french are losing their leaves.

I’m sure I’ll write one or two more harvest related posts.

Posted in Blog, Greenhouse, Vegetables | Leave a comment

2020 – Largest Tomato

Today we picked the largest tomato of the year. Marizol Gold always produces a few large fruit but this year it seems to have excelled itself. 846 grams (1lb 14 oz in old money) on a plant that has been looking “poorly” for a couple of weeks.

As I’ve said a few times in recent posts, whatever it is that has affected my tomatoes this year (wilt or bacterial canker) made me fear for this fruit as others have been dropping off before they’re fully ripe. (I think because of lack of water) but, with a bit of extra molly coddling, this one has survived. What we do with it in the way of eating, I’m not quite sure, its tipped us over 31kg of fruit so far (and more yet to come but nothing like this one).

Posted in Greenhouse, Tomato Cultivars | Tagged | Leave a comment

Mid September 2020 – The beginning of the end

Whilst there are still quite a few tomatoes still to come, its obvious that the plants are well past their best and we can see that the end of the season is in sight. We pulled up the first of the plants today which (surprisingly) was Summer Cider.

Our harvest so far has been much better than last year and about the same as we would normally expect. However, according to our records, earlier years continue to harvest for several weeks yet and I can’t say that I expect that to happen this year. Although there are a couple or three large tomatoes still ripening, most of the remaining fruit are standard sized red tomatoes and I would guess we have no more than 10kg of fruit remaining (30kg so far).

As I’ve said before, our problem has been a combination of Bacterial Canker, various forms of Wilt and grey mould of some sort. We’ve been cutting the affected/infected leaves off the plants but that doesn’t seem to have stopped the problem working its way back into the plant. The result is that the leaves die back, the stem dries up and the fruit drop off due to lack of water. Some of them (particularly the Summer Cider) also suffer from what I would call “grey threads” running through the fruit which makes them unpleasant to look at and therefore they get thrown away.

COVID19 has meant that we haven’t seen our children and grandchildren this year or had visitors so consuming the tomatoes has also been an issue. One solution has been tomato soup. We found a simple tasty recipe which uses about a kilo of fruit to make enough for between four and six servings so making that a few times has reduced the glut to more manageable proportions.

The rest of the garden continues to deliver although that too is showing signs of autumn. The dwarf french beans have finished but the runner beans (which we sowed later) have hitched on to the end and are keeping us supplied, courgettes and cucumbers are also over (earlier than I would have expected). The raspberries seem to have recovered from their battering by the wind and are giving us a couple of hundred grams a day which, topped up with a few alpine strawberries, adds to the cereal.

Our eating apples are willing to give us a lot more than we can eat but fortunately they’re not dropping off the trees so eating them both raw and cooked means that we can just about keep up with them. The cookers are not quite ripe but we’re beginning to get additional windfalls. We have loads of carrots which (hopefully) will keep in the raised bed. I’ll have to work out next year how to share the bed with something else.

Posted in Blog, Garden, Tomato Cultivars, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Recipe – Simple Tasty Tomato Soup – Deal with the Glut

In August and early September there is always a glut of tomatoes and whilst there are lots of ways of dealing with it, freezing, chutney, sauce, etc. this is another recipe which is also good in September when the days are getting a bit cooler, it makes an excellent lunch and freezes well if you want.

Ingredients (for 4) – ours in italics

  • 1 – 1.5kg tomatoes
  • 1 Onion
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • sugar
  • tomato puree (optional)
  • up to 1 litre vegetable stock

Method

Put a couple of tablespoons of cooking oil in a large pan, chop up the onion, carrots and celery and set them to cook for about 10 minutes until the onion is soft and slightly coloured. (The amount of carrots and celery is up to you but we put a couple of medium sized carrots and a stick of celery).

Chop up the tomatoes. We usually skin them and take out the green cores but again its up to you. The skins add flavour but can leave the soup with lots of bits in it. You could also take out the pips if you want but we don’t find that necessary.

When the tomatoes have cooked for another 10 minutes or so, add the bay leaves, half a teaspoon of sugar and some black pepper.

Then add the stock you want to make the total quantity of liquid up to about 1.5 litres so if you’ve used beefsteak tomatoes you’ll need more liquid than if you’ve used cherry tomatoes.

Look at the colour and adjust to your preference by adding some tomato puree. If you’ve used mainly red tomatoes you shouldn’t need any but if you’ve used other colours then the soup will be a different colour. We like to add a couple or three yellow tomatoes as we find it makes the colour brighter but be careful if adding green ones as it can make the soup look “sludgy”.

Simmer until everything is soft (40 minutes or so) then blend with a stick blender until its smooth. Check the taste and add salt, pepper or sugar to your liking.

That’s it, tasty soup in about an hour and a half with not a lot of input from you.

Posted in Recipe, Tomato Cultivars | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tomato Problems – Wilt

With September with us, I was hoping that the tomato season would be extended through this month and into (at least) next. I usually get tomatoes all the way through until mid-November with the late beefsteak varieties providing something all the way through.

However, this year (2020) I don’t think its going to be like that. The Bacterial Canker I wrote about earlier is now causing Wilt. The leaves are drooping and nothing I can do seems to improve the situation (in fact the normal advice seems to be to destroy the plants and cut ones losses. Its guilty of the discolouration of the fruit, the fruit dropping green and mould on the plants, leaves and fruit. So I think I’ll be luck if I get fruit for much more than a couple of weeks.

So nothing to be done for this year, I’ll pick what comes and keep the greenhouses as clear as I can of fruit and infected plants. A good clean of everything and no re-use of my compost next year and hope that its better.

Posted in Greenhouse, Growing Tomatoes | Tagged , | Leave a comment

August 2020 – Report so far

Most things are doing fine. The tomatoes are cropping well with much the same weight of tomatoes as the previous couple of years so far. The 2018 crop seemed to peak in a few weeks time so it will be interesting to see how they compare. 2019 wasn’t a very good year overall, this year looks like it might be better.

A number of the plants look like they have some form of problem which I suspect might be Bacterial Canker so I’m trimming the leaves off if they show problems.

The French Beans are getting away from us. Although we’ve got lots of blackfly on the dwarf beans which seems to have knocked them back, the climbing ones (which are on the other side of the tunnel) seem to be free of the problem and producing in volume. The same is true of the courgettes. The plants outside the tunnel got blackfly badly and aren’t producing much but the ones in the tunnel (by the climbing French Beans) are producing enough to keep us going. The blackfly originated on the second sowing of Broad Beans. The first (overwintered) sowing was fine but the ones sown in February/March got hit badly with no beans to speak of. I should have pulled them out earlier. You live and learn.

Cabbages and carrots are also fine The carrot thinings more than adequate. The cucumbers are producing more than we can sensibly eat, except for the white cucumbers which taste foul. Very bitter. Never grown them before and won’t do so again. Finally the Physalis plants are dominating the greenhouse. Right up to the top and pushing themselves over. I only hope that the quantity of fruit make it worth it. The ones outside are much more manageable only a couple or three feet high but with reduced fruit to match.

Finally the fruit. The apples are being had by the squirrels and magpies but there seem to be more than enough to go round. I just hope that they’ll still be there when they’re ripe. Raspberies are just starting and there’s a gentle crop of alpine strawberries, enough to add to breakfast each morning.

Nothing like enough to be self-sufficient but too many to eat all at once.

Posted in Allotment, Blog, Garden, Greenhouse, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment