Red or Dead

In the greenhouse, the tomatoes have long since reached the sloping glass roof and most have been trimmed back, to ensure that their energy goes into setting and ripening fruit on the many trusses all the way up their stems rather than in trying to break out of the glass.

Many of the plants lurch across the space somewhat, due to our slightly late attendance on tying them up, and again this year the lower leaves have begun to show signs of magnesium deficency, so I have been feeding the foliage with diluted epsom salts to address this. It certainly seems to have arrested the spread of mottling up the plants’ leaves.

One plant, however, stopped growing early after attaining only a couple of feet of height, its foliage quickly yellowing and looking pale and limp beside the deep lush green of its neighbours. This is the marmande, that I was given at the village seed swap in the spring.

Despite its diminutive height, it has however set and ripened half a dozen of the most amazing large pleated fruits, wonderful eaten still warm from the sun. I was surprised that these were among the first ripe fruits of the season.

A little reading around suggests that this tomato is best grown outdoors, and perhaps the early hot conditions under glass are responsible for hampering its growth. With the recent cool wet weather, I’m not sure that we would have enjoyed any harvest from it outside this year, certainly not yet; but perhaps it is worth trying it outdoors next year. I suspect that the current plant will not live much longer though, the last two or three fruits are turning orange and there has been little or no new growth from the rather sickly-looking plant.

Sad that its productivity will be so short – but the fruit it has provided have been full of flavour, easily matching, if not exceeding, our favourite familiar greenhouse tomatoes, Shirley and Sakura. From their lofty terrain these have been giving us a more measured harvest for the past few weeks, and should continue to do so for many more to come, fingers crossed.


10 thoughts on “Red or Dead

  1. I think the key to growing tomatoes is to have lots of different varieties. The weather conditions that suit one will not suit another, so since we don’t know what the weather is going to do it’s best to hedge your bets.
    I’m hoping my “Rainbow Beefsteak” will be as nice as your “Marmande”.

    • Indeed. We haven’t grown outdoor tomatoes since the first year, when they succumbed to blight, but perhaps we will try a few Marmande again next year, as they are so tasty. Fingers crossed for your beefsteaks.

  2. Wow, those Marmande do look good. I have no idea what variety I have in the polytunnel, they were planted by the previous owner Mrs H and there are no labels to be found. We are enjoying eating them though!

    • Mmm, we’ll definitely be growing these again. Must be quite exciting to be eating “surprise tomatoes” although hard to track them down again next year if you don’t know what they are! You’ll have to save some seed…

  3. I have three “Marmande” growing outdoors, just starting to be tinged with red. They seem to do really well, I first grew them on Anglesey where they were buffeted by salt-laden gales! I too have been a little tardy at tying in the tomatoes in the greenhouse, and I think I need to try your epsom salt cure on a couple of them too.

    • Excellent, shall try and find a space for some outside next year then, sounds like they will cope with our tempestuous location.
      It’s so easy to put off tying the tomatoes until suddenly they are lurching across in the most ungainly manner and it becomes hard work to move them without snapping!

  4. Interesting, I am growing Red Alert which is a tomato designed for outside growing (it ripen quickly). I put 3 in the greenhouse and had exactly the same thing as you happen to one, it just stopped growing although the truss of fruit it had produced ripened. I wondered if it was because it couldnt cope with the heat and I think your experience confirms this. Lesson learnt

  5. the whopping ‘Marmade’ has gone for quality not quantity it seems. Always thought beef tomatoes were less tasty so this was a surprise to me. Do like my toms bite size so I can burst the fruit between my teeth (while I still have some!). Your description of pleated fruit is memorable – will always think of them like that.

    • I love the small bite size cherry tomatoes too, but there is something special about a salad of large tomato slices inter-layered with basil leaves and thick slabs of mozzarella, and they’re good for a cheese and tomato sandwich too! I think beef tomatoes in the supermarkets are indeed often tasteless, but if you’ve ever bought them in the markets in Europe the flavour can be exceptional.

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