I used to think there was nothing that could beat the horticultural high of growing your own fruit and veg.
The intense fragrance and flavour of the very first ripe tomato of the season, that sense of child-like wonder as you unearth the first early potatoes. Then I stated to grow flowers and it took the whole thing to another level. The sense of joy when you cut your first bucket load of Sarah Bernhardt from your patch after patiently waiting for years isn't easily forgotten. Smug doesn't even come close let me tell you.
Just when I thought I'd nailed the whole winning-at-life-isn't-gardening-marvelous-thing.....I had kids. Between the lack of time now available to me to get out there and a dog who likes to dig and trample over all my beds (and the mice, the voles and the giant slugs this year), my garden is a mere shadow of its former self. BUT, putting all that aside.....seeing my offspring running barefoot through the long grass towards the veg patch, pick and then actually EAT the things I grow; juice trickling down their chins in the process, seriously pulls on my heart strings. It taken me to a new level of love for gardening and the magic it brings to our lives.
Aged two and three quarters. My two can now spot a ripe Sungold tomato from 50ft. They know their 'Black Krim' from their 'Gardener's Delight'. They've established their favourite is 'Rosella', which incidentally, I'm in agreement with (see below). They devour at least two punnets worth of 'All Gold' raspberries before they have even made it back to the house and they scream with excitement when they see any ripe blueberries that the pigeons have somehow missed and miraculously remain for their deliciously chubby little fingers to prise off and pop into their mouths. THAT is what it is all about for me. That's the reason I grow my own.
Want to know which tomatoes make the cut for my growing list year after year?
After growing tomatoes on and off for over twenty years. I'm done with the whole 'growing for novelty's sake' thing. I must have tried nearly a hundred different varieties, from those black indigo ones that were all the rage a couple of years ago, to yellow pear-shaped ones, teeny-tiny pearl-sized ones (seriously such a pain to pick) and everything in-between.
I'm now firmly in the camp of growing (mostly) only a few tried and tested varieties, my safe bets. For me, with limited growing space available in the greenhouse, it makes sense to focus on the ones I know will perform and hit the spot in terms of flavour.
Remember though, like everything, taste is SO personal. In our house we like to eat most of our tomatoes fresh in salads throughout the growing season, preserving just a few small jars of the cherry tomatoes in olive oil as a treat for later in the year. We opt for a mix of our favourite beefsteak with a few cherry tomatoes for contrast - avoiding the plum varieties altogether. Maybe I'll go back to a wider range in the future, but for now, I'm after safety in the familiar in terms of effort versus reward.
I grow this both inside the greenhouse and outside in the raised beds. The beefsteak fruits are a beautiful chocolate-red colour tinged with green. In my garden, they are never as big as they could be; I've seen them grow to over a pound in weight down in the South of France, but they are still a good size to slice and we find the flavour incredible - lots of umami with a hint of smokiness.
If I could only grow one tomato, it would have to be this one. It's a super sweet cherry that grows prolifically - even when grown outside and the orange-yellow colour is stunning in a salad. The best cherry tomato I've ever grown.
Ok, so this one's not unusual in looks; no stripes, no artistic sculptural form and there's no off-the-wall colouring BUT it is a perfectly formed large red cherry with a lovely sweet taste and it's a strong grower and heavy cropper.
A sweet mid-sized orange tomato that I tried for the first time a few years ago and has been on my regulars list ever since - the flavour is intense and it looks great in a salad.
A new variety for me this year after being introduced to it by James Wong. I still allow myself space to try a few new varieties each year outside and this one is now going on my regulars list. It's a cherry variety with a sweet, but savoury flavour with a hint of umami and smokiness. My two boys ABSOLUTELY love this one.