Picture of Medwyn Williams

Medwyn Williams

Hello. I'm Medwyn Williams – eleven times Gold medal winner at the Chelsea Flower Show, Past Chairman of the Royal Horticultural Society Fruit Vegetable and Herb Committee and President of the National Vegetable Society.

The return of Tomato Zenith


I was informed by the breeder of the show winning tomato Zenith that it’s now available to me once more after much pressure from myself to have it re instated. The phone calls I had expressing disappointment from growers regarding its demise from last years shop speaks volumes regarding it’s superb quality in every way.  The shape is as near to round as you can get with  a lovely wide expanse of bright green calyx that invitingly turns upwards to face the judge!. It’s also a vine ripe variety offering the grower a much larger amount of fully ripened fruit to select from as the tomatoes stay firm on the plant much longer. We will have stock in from next week and these are fresh  ‘Grade A’ seed  having a 90% germination level. They will be available from my on line shop.  There’s no doubt that Jim McCartney can grow some top quality tomatoes having been in amongst the cards at National level on numerous occasions and winning at the NVS Championships at Dorchester last year with a really top quality set.

Jim Macartney with 12 Zenith tomatoes at the NVS 2104 Championships held at Dorchester.
Jim Macartney with 12 Zenith tomatoes at the NVS 2104 Championships held at Dorchester.

For information. Seed merchants are legally obliged to sell seed with a minimum percentage germination on all vegetables whereas with flower seed there is no such legal requirement!! Tomato seed have a minimum requirement of 70% although we strive to order and store precision seed that have a much higher minimum germination level. Provokingly, if we order 10,000 seed, in theory 2,500 seed could fail to germinate and we would still be legally correct!!. However the truth is that the seed producers are much more reliable than that and have very sophisticated cleaning and storing facilities to ensure that you have seed of the highest germination possible. All our seed are stored in a large commercial style fridge in order to try and achieve as high a germination rate as possible.

It’s generally accepted that tomato seed will stay viable for four years if stored correctly in a cool environment.   If tomato seeds are appropriately fermented, dried, and stored, they can last up to 10 years with a germination rate of 50%. If used within 4-7 years, the germination rate will be much better. A Heirloom tomato pioneer, Carolyn Male, has re-awakened 22-year-old tomato seeds with the documented record of rejuvenation being 50 years. That’s certainly a long time to lay dormant.


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1 thought on “The return of Tomato Zenith

  1. I’ve grown Zenith both last year and this, although I”ve not shown it in tomato classes as the size of fruit grown outdoors (I have no polytunnel or greenhouse) means it’s a bit smaller than the recommended 6cm. However, the quality of fruit are superb and I may have enough late larger ones this year to show at Lindley Hall in early October.

    I”ve grown the strain in both Rhizopots (which are breathable fabric) in 2014 and in a traditional plastic pot this year and both year the quality has been quite superb.

    This year I’ve been showing a strain called Capriccia, which I obtained from a small seed company in NW England. I grew them in the Harrod Quadgrow system and once again, the control that system gives for watering/feeding (you can happily add your potash-rich fertiliser to the enclosed reservoir with superb results) has made even sowings in late April produce excellent fruit for the September shows.

    As for seed germination, I have to say I’m singularly unimpressed if commercial seed doesn’t give high success rates. I make my own seeds from the strains we eat at home (things like Alicante, Black Cherry, Super Marmande, Black Russian, Maskotka and Tigerellla) and I haven’t failed to germinate a seed I prepared myself the past two years. That’s right, 100% germination of all strains in both 2014 and 2015. I don’t do anything fancy, just spoon out the seed/juice into a little cup, fill with water, put foil over the top and ferment for two weeks, then remove the mould, pass the liquid+seeds through a sieve, wash with water a bit and then dry on a saucer before storing in a seed bag in a drawer at RT over the winter. If I as an amateur can do it, I’m frankly unimpressed that professionals can’t do it, if their seeds come from tomatoes suitable for growing in the UK.

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