It’s getting nippy, isn’t it? The tomato plants in our back garden were still laden with unripened fruit, and I didn’t want to waste it. So this evening I went outside and picked it all in (left). This year we have giant Moneymakers, cherry tomatoes, cherry plum tomatoes, Gardener’s Delight and yellow tomatoes. The cherry and cherry plum tomatoes came from the plant bargain bin at the local garden centre; the others were grown from seed by Frugal Grandma and given to us when they were a few centimetres high. The plant pots were scavenged and the compost came from the Morrisons value range. All in all, if you don’t count the water, the summer’s bumper crop has cost less than £1. I’m happy with that!
Although they didn’t have time to ripen before the colder weather came crashing in (thank you, British Summer), I’m rather proud of this year’s crop. Last year was a disaster: the plants went into the vegetable patch at the back of the garden, grew big and strong, sprouted tomatoes and then… the tomatoes all went bruised and watery on the vine before they were ripe. I don’t know the whats or the whys – none of the pictures of diseased tomatoes on t’interweb matched – but I guessed that it must have been something to do with the garden soil. (As previously noted, my garden isn’t exactly problem-free.) So this year the tomato plants all went into patio pots, and they were fine.
How To Grow Outdoor Tomatoes by R.P. Faulkner was published in 1949, when everyone was making do and mending, and rationing was still in force in the UK. The book must have been passed down the family; I picked it up at my mum’s house, idly, wondering how it was possible to produce an entire book on the subject. Well, now I know! And let me tell you now: next year, this little tome is going to be tucked under my arm as I produce sufficient tomatoes to feed all of North Yorkshire. I feel a future series coming on…
Take the pots, for example. This year, I filled them with compost and plopped the plants in. I don’t think that tomato fiend R.P. Faulkner would have approved, if the following counsel is anything to go by:
Into the bottom of the receptacle should go half an inch or so of broken pots or small pebbles with larger ones over the drainage holes to prevent the soil washing out, then a layer of coarse fibre from the loam to cover the drainage material and finally 1 1/2 inches of compost made by mixing 2 parts good medium loam, 1 part horticultural peat and 1 part coarse silver sand. Pass these through a 1/4 inch mesh sieve and to each bushel of the mixture add 1 1/2 oz Superphosphate and 3/4 oz Hydrated Lime.
If the reader can come to friendly terms with a local nurseryman or, perhaps, the parks superintendent, to secure a supply [of good compost], the better growth will repay him.
I have never seen this city’s park superintendent – the flowers in the beds always look pretty and are suddenly there, as if by magic – but perhaps I should endeavour to track him/her down. Hmmm.
I was also tickled by this picture:
This is University College, Nottingham (now Nottingham University) in the 1940s. Evidently, the institution’s fine grounds have been turned into some sort of tomato metropolis. Bright young frugallers, kneeling in straight-cut slacks and rolled-up shirt sleeves, are overseeing things. Something tells me that Nottingham University’s grounds no longer look like this. What a shame.
In the book a couple of pages are given over to the ripening of green tomatoes.
The best results have been obtained by packing the fruit in layers in boxes, each layer being separated by a sheet of clean newspaper. The boxes should not contain more than five layers. An equable temperature of about 60 degrees fahrenheit is most conducive to steady ripening; violent fluctuations or extremes of heat and cold are generally unfavourable. If it is desired to keep some of the fruits for as long as possible the most perfect specimens should be chosen and packed separately, each fruit being placed in a small compartment to itself by partitions formed from paper and the container placed in a cool cellar. No guarantee can, however, be given of the success of this procedure and the prudent housewife will wiser to depend on her winter tomato supplies on preserving a proportion when they are plentiful in early autumn.
The fruits in store should be examined at intervals to make sure that all is well with them.
So this is what I have done. I have sorted my green tomatoes into this old shoebox, then removed the calyxes (the green star at each tomato’s “eye”) and packed them away. Don’t let me forget about them!