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  • Writer's pictureAnnemarie Bolduc

Garden Tomatoes

Updated: Feb 24

The challenge of growing the most beautiful and tasty tomatoes that ripen on the vine.

Homegrown pretty tomatoes • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2019

Tomatoes are the pride of anyone growing food. It's the moment of truth when late summer comes to early autumn. You’ll either be picking and eating them every day, or it is time to say okay, bugger, I’ll do better next year. Nature is not a simple thing, and neither is growing tomatoes organically. I discover something about their cultivation every year, especially when a new problem appears. Since I started a veggie garden in Australia, every summer has been so different, and so have the tomato crops. They are prone to many pests and diseases, affected by the weather or growing conditions, but still worth the challenge. I will admit that I only eat homegrown fresh and raw tomatoes as I never really liked the ones from the shop... Organically grown ones are much healthier, and the flesh of a tomato ripened naturally is so tasty. Another thing I love about growing tomatoes is experimenting with different varieties, tastes, sizes and colours. There is a little more challenge when choosing heirlooms, as some are less resistant than the modern varieties. I’m getting to know which are best for our climate, and one thing is for sure: the cherry tomatoes “Tommy Toe” are incredibly productive and hardy. In the cold climate mountain region where we live (foothills of the Snowy Mountains), we get a shorter season than in warmer zones. In Québec, I see my friends having better and earlier crops, probably because of the extra hours of daylight (the sun in the southern hemisphere makes the summer days in Australia shorter and the winter days longer). Tomatoes originate from South and Central America and love warm sunny days.


Cherry Tomato time • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2019-20


GROWING & COOKING TIPS

Tomatoes are prepared like vegetables but are, botanically speaking, berry fruits. Depending on your preference and climate, you can grow tomatoes from seed or by seedling. It will take longer for a plant to produce from seed if you don’t have a heated greenhouse to give it an early start. Planting tomatoes before November is always risky in our cold zone as we get late frosts. Each year taught me a different lesson. From this, I’ve managed and improved my soil, watering, positioning and organic pest control (I tried the yellow sticky trap this year, a winner for white flies!). It is best never to compost the affected or finished tomato plants (burn or discard) as fungal diseases can survive and return. It is also good to practise crop rotation and companion planting. Basil, marigold and nasturtiums are the best tomato buddies. A good prevention tip is to keep an eye on the plants daily while watering or wandering the yard. You might identify a problem quicker, but observing plants has a therapeutic effect.


Enjoying colourful varieties • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2019-22


There are plenty of tomato cultivars if you love diversity when growing veggies. The cherry tomatoes are so prolific, yummy, early and hardy. They even come up like weeds all around the garden because of the bits I left to the chooks or in the compost that has self-seeded. When I get too many of them, I make some batches of my cherry tomato sauce base that can go on pizza or in any pasta sauce base. I preserve the extras in the freezer. Larger tomato varieties take longer to mature but are so delicious when sliced in a sandwich. For something very tasty, try a sweet and salty combination with some figs (harvested at the same time of year) and haloumi cheese. I always keep a bunch of big red ones for making some condiments like my autumn harvest chutney. And if they don’t ripen before the frost, it is also fine because I make some green tomato relish, a recipe inspired by my grandmother's relish. Tomatoes are packed with nutrients and are considered a superfood. There are so many versatile ways to cook and preserve tomatoes that they are certainly a must-have in the summer veggie garden (or balcony, as they also do well in pots), and, of course, the kitchen. Fresh and organic in season is always best of course, and to shop for locally grown produce a first choice if not growing and preserving your own.


Enjoying colourful varieties • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2019-21


Check out related posts, recipes and inspirations (more to come!)

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