If there’s one plant that I have enjoyed growing over the years then it has to be glasshouse tomatoes. During my apprenticeship days we grew ‘Ailsa Craig’ as the main crop and despite it being prone to a few problems must be one of the best varieties ever. Grown correctly it had (and still has) a fine taste but over the years the strain has degenerated and it has been superseded by others, particularly the F1 hybrids.
Of the F1’s ‘Shirley’ has been the winner with me and many other growers as it is very much like Ailsa Craig both in looks and taste. As Shirley is my wife’s name, I still grow it but as my main crop now, I have gone back to an old straight variety that for me anyway, beats the lot, ‘Tigerella’. A lovely shaped tomato with orangey stripes over the skin, it doesn’t just taste fine but also looks good on a plate.
I can’t imagine the number of varieties that I have grown but many are now difficult, but not impossible, to find, names like ‘Radio’ and ‘Harbinger’ spring to mind from the past. More recently, with all the choice we now have available, memorable names include ‘Malinowy Henryka’ a lovely orange coloured, large fruited Eastern European variety and ‘Bloody Butcher’ which as the name implies is blood red and a lovely heritage type.
As can be seen I am a intermediate type tomato fan, what some might call ordinary tomatoes, although I am happy to add a few others to the cropping plan each year. ‘Sungold’ is a super variety but equally so are some of the plum types that you can pick and eat like sweets straight from the plant. ‘Principe Borghese’ being a lovely one that springs to mind.
So, when it comes to tomatoes, we have never had it so good as far as varieties are concerned. What I will say though is “don’t always think that you need to go for a F1 hybrid variety to get the best quality fruits”. A lot of the success with tomatoes is in the growing and finding varieties to suit your requirements and situation. I always remember that with dear old ‘Ailsa Craig’ the best fruits were produced at the end of the season when we got a bit of wilt in the glasshouse and so reduced watering. Now that’s what you called – flavour!