Twenty Years Ago
If you had visited the “tomato plants” area of a garden centre twenty years ago, you would have seen mainly tall, cordon varieties for sale such as the old favourites Moneymaker, Alicante, Ailsa Graig and Gardener’s Delight with perhaps a large, beefsteak variety too.

Cherry varieties, of the cascading type, were still largely undiscovered and the hobby of growing tomatoes was mainly for the really keen gardener with a greenhouse and lots of experience.

Popularity of Container/Patio Growing
Times have changed a bit since then, and cherry varieties for containers and hanging baskets have become extremely popular. Furthermore, many gardeners are finding that cherry plants often produce more weight in tomatoes than larger tomato varieties!

For me, growing cherry/bush varieties in large containers produces the best results. My cherry toms are always the first to mature each season and produce, not only the biggest quantity, but the heaviest weight in tomatoes when compared to the beefsteak varieties.

Cocktail Tomatoes
Of course there are different sizes of “cherry” tomato – some of which are golf ball size and some are literally the size of a cherry that might sit on a cake. To complicate matters, those tomatoes that are the size of a cherry are really a “cocktail” size tomato!

I consider cocktail size tomatoes to be more for decoration and fun for kids than a serious addition to the food supply, but that’s just my opinion.

What I do know is that the taste of a Red Alert tomato, nearly golf ball size, is among the best tasting tomatoes I have ever tried and can hold its own when compared to even a Brandywine or Caspian Pink! These two large varieties are considered to be two of the best tasting toms on the planet!

A Variety of Varieties
However, for me it’s all about growing a variety of varieties and not puting all my hopes in just one! When grown outside, a variety can even change its taste from season to season – depending on the growing conditions.

Three larger Ones
This season I’m trying out a few new ones for me … the following heirloom’s –

  • Hill Billy Potato Leaf from the USA
  • Eve Purple Ball from Germany
  • Black Russian from – mmm let me guess!

A sort of “around the world in tomatoes”. The idea of experiencing the same tastes as those who grew these wonderful tomatoes years ago, is an appealing idea.

If you have grown any of these varieties and would like to say something about them, please leave a comment below.

Hill Billy Potato Leaf
Hill Billy Potato Leaf

The three heirloom varieties all produce large tomatoes but I shall still be growing the cherry varieties of Red Alert, Maskotka, Tumbling Tom and Garden Pearl – I know which ones I’ll be eating first!

If you have a story, experience or would just like to write a few words about growing tomatoes please email me here.

The answers to this week’s quiz (quiz 2) may be found in the text above.

4 Responses

  1. Trevor Coombe
    | Reply

    Hi Nick,
    Great to see you back again after the long cold winter, did I say after? Still minus brass monkeys here in Cambs!
    Anyway, thanks very much for the seeds you sent last year. I’m itching to plant them! (Red Alert, Black Cherry & Stupice).
    I’ve got myself a 5’x5’x6′ plastic greenhouse this season to try and improve on what was not a bad harvest last year but everything was open to the elements. (Alicia Craig, Alicante, Green Sausage & Tumbling Tom)
    Along with your seeds I’m also going to try Delicious (the world record holder for heaviest tomato!) just for a laugh. Brandywine Black (just because I’m intruiged by it) & good old Tumbling Tom.
    (BTW the Delicious & Brandywine Black seeds came in packs of 100, far too many for me so if you want any send me an email)!
    I grew four Tumbling Toms last year in baskets; however I was given a few Lobelia plants and put two in each basket with them. It looked nice but the Lobelias went a bit mad on all the tomato food and I’m sure the toms suffered a tad. So we’ll see how they do this year under cover & on their own!
    Best of luck for this season and look forward to your regular newsletters.
    PS Got the video camera fixed yet?

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Trevor,
      Good to hear from you and to know that you’re getting ready for this season – here we go again!
      The greenhouse should make a difference and give much better results – at least it should help prevent blight when we get a wet spell during the summer!
      This season I’m experimenting with large toms and trying to get a better yield . It can be a bit frustrating when all that effort only produces three of four good ones and several poor quality ones, so I shall be grafting rootstock on some heirloom seedlings and see if the results are better in my garden.
      A few of those seeds you kindly offered should be just what I need – I’ll send you my address – thanks a lot!
      Making the videos last season nearly finished me off, so I think I’ll retire from the silver screen and just write instead!

  2. Jess Allaway
    | Reply

    Hi Nick,
    Thanks to your advice I have been growing Red Alert and Tumblers for a few years now and can’t fault those two for performance. I did, however, grow Black Russian a couple of years ago and from two plants I think I got only about 7-8 very large tomatoes. They were very beautiful very even shaped large specimens which got me a first at the local show, but I was disappointed at their low production. Maybe I did something wrong with them, I don’t know, so I hope you have better results with them. I tended to have the same very low production with Tasty Evergreen and Alaskan Fancy. I’m pretty far north, so only grow in greenhouse.

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Jess,
      I’ve always had very modest results from large varieties too, but this season I hope to find ways to improve on their yield. As you say, the Red Alert and Tumbler yields are exceptional and with a great taste!

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