For six weeks or more we have been enjoying baskets full of sweet sun-ripened tomatoes from the greenhouse.
Shirley and Sakura tomatoes always grow well for us under glass, and this year we raised some San Marzano tomatoes to accompany them. Their blocky fruits, a favourite with many chefs, have been sweet and tasty, and we were looking forward to freezing them in flavourful sauces for the winter.
Outside, against a south-facing wall, Marmade tomatoes have been cropping relatively well too, their large pleated fruit full of flavour; ideal sliced into a salad or sandwich.
But this weekend, we found brown spots on the Marmande leaves, and not just on these outdoor tomatoes: the San Marzano plants in the greenhouse had curled brown leaves, and blotches appearing on the fruit and stems. Blight had found its way into our greenhouse for the first time.
We pulled out the San Marzano plants, with handfuls of fruit sadly beyond rescuing, and checked the cordon types nearby. Alas, even these showed the marks of blight, though not so advanced. We cut off all the affected leaves and stems, leaving as much fruit as we could to continue ripening. At least by August, tomatoes should continue to ripen on the vine even with all the leaves removed from the plants.
Like many others up and down the country, this is not then going to be a year of bumper tomato harvests. One of our favourite, and most dependable, crops has been curtailed. The aubergines nearby, members of the same blight-prone family as tomatoes and potatoes, also looked rather unwell, so we picked their black shiny fruits to carry up to the kitchen, and destroyed the plants.
The half-dozen fruits were roasted with some of our courgettes, tomatoes and garlic, and made a few fine meals, but not quite the triumphant harvest we had hoped for. We should continue to pick tomatoes for some weeks, but their days are certainly numbered, and we won’t have the usual supply of sauces in the freezer to enjoy through the winter. Greenhouse crops are often lucky to escape the ravages of blight; alas this year the damp weather has proven too much.