Tomatoes - Peruvian Apple or Apple of Peru
2nd May 2002
Pome d' Amour
I was a little late in getting my tomato seed in this year, but as the early part of April was so exceptionally sunny, particularly here on the West coast of Wales, the young plants have made some tremendous growth. It is now a perfect time to plant them directly into a cold greenhouse as the glass should give sufficient protection from the odd night or two that the temperatures may yet still drop to freezing. When it first came to Europe it was given the romantic French name 'pomme d' amour" a synonym that is little used in English which is 'Love Apple' what a pity that this word is not more often used.
The first name actually given to the tomato was ‘Peruvian Apple" or ‘Apple of Peru' around the sixteenth century and would seem to indicate that this most popular of vegetables, would seem to indicate a Peruvian origin. Throughout the world however this very versatile vegetable (botanicaly of course a fruit) is called Tomato, a name that is derived from the Mexican word ‘tomatl'. To think that in the second half of the eighteenth century it was listed in the catalogues of a famous Parisian horticultural firm as an ornamental plant!
The wild parental form of tomato is thought to be ‘Lycopersicum cerasiforme' which grows wild in Peru, the Antilles and Texas. The many cultivars that we know today are derived from this wild species through a long succession of hybridisation and selections. Thanks to the Plant breeders of today we have some truly marvellous varieties and again thankfully, most of the most modern varieties have good taste as well.
Believe it or not, the question that I am most often asked when people come up to my stand at Chelsea is ‘Where has the flavour gone from tomatoes' and ‘When I was a child the flavour was distinctly better'
In many ways we did loose some of the flavour when tomatoes were being flown in from places such as the Canaries to satisfy our unendless demand for year round tomatoes. The consequence was of course that these tomatoes had to be picked when they were just turning from green to pale yellow and then had to suffer days in boxes so that by the time the tomatoes arrived here the flavour had more or less been dispersed. I personally believe that even though the Gro bags are an enormous help to the growers, and I use them all the time, the flavour was a lot better when the plants were grown in good quality soil with plenty of organic matter work into it. The plants were then able to forage into the soil for all the micro trace elements that they required to their hearts content.
Finally though, I think it has a lot to do with simply growing old, I can well remember as a child my father giving me the first tomato from a seasons crop and the smell of it in my hand, never mind the sweet taste, has stuck with me to this day. What happens when we get older is that the pallet is not quite the same, the flavour tastes different whilst at the same time our brain is telling us that our taste buds are still craving for what we tasted all those years ago; never mind the reminiscing, lets get on with the planting.
A couple of year ago a very good joiner friend of mine made me a wooden box that fits the whole length of one side of my 12 foot long greenhouse and fits the full width as well. This serves the initial purpose of growing my tomatoes in whilst later on in the year and through the Winter months it will be raised up from the floor and become the framework for a bench to hold my leeks and onions etc. The wooden frame will this year be filled with Gro bags and as the box is filled up in layers, the bottom half will be given some added Hydro Complex fertiliser, about a handful to the yard run worked through to the bottom.
The heating was switched off a week ago so the plants are now hardy enough to be planted directly into the compost. I always make sure that, either the Gro bags are brought into the greenhouse to warm up a few days before or the bed is left to warm up for a day or two to prevent the young plants from having a check. I like to make full use of the plants own mechanism and by this I mean utilising the stem of the plant so that adventitious roots will be generated. I always remove the two seedling leaf from the bottom so that I can plant the tomatoes as low down as possible thereby making them generate more roots from their hairy stems. The stronger the root system is the stronger the plant will be as well, my father always had a saying ‘look after the roots of a plant and the top will look after itself'
I can get 14 plants into the one side which is just about enough to get a good dish. The variety will be the new Cedrico which I won the National with last year, whether or not I shall be so lucky with the growing this time remains to be seen. Immediately after planting each plant will be given a pint of water each to settle them in and a cane will be positioned behind each plant and right up the glass where it will be anchored to two strong wire supports.
Depending on the weather they will not be given any more water for at least 10 day to make sure that the roots will forage around and strengthen whilst searching for water. From these plants, in the next week or two, I intend to remove all the side shoots and the strongest of these will be pushed around the rim of a five inch pot of Gro bag material. Again, given some slight shade from the direct sun, these will very quickly root up and hopefully will be my plants for the National Championships at Malvern during late September. These plants of course are free and I shall therefore dispense with the second sowing that I had intended to do.