Wednesday, 1 June 2011

A tale of the British tomato

I had a funny conversation with an Italian colleague today. It started as a discussion on tomatoes, Italian versus English. Obviously I love the Mediterranean fruit and veg, When you look at the tomatoes in the market stalls in South of France, Italy and Spain you get something very wonderful. big juicy tomatoes picked from the vine that morning, smelling of tomato and ripe and gorgeous. However I was saying that I always but British tomatoes in this country because of the lack of air-miles but also because the imported ones are not very good. Picked before they are ripe and  kept in cold stores. Also because we should support British tomato industry. She was having none of it.

However, I went on to say that nothing beat a home grown one, picked fresh and eaten while still warm from the sun. She waved her hands in a typical Italian gesture and exclaimed that it was far far too expensive to grow your own. This slightly flummoxed me. How can you possibly think that, I said. £1.50 for a pack of seeds, throw them in some dirt and nurture them. She seemed rather surprised that you could actually grow a tomato from seed. 'Oh' she said, 'I always thought that that you had to buy them as a plant'. She went on to say that 'Mummy, always said that it wasn't worth it, because by the time you had bought the plants, bought the compost and pots and PAID THE GARDENER TO DO IT, it was cheaper to go to the shop.'

Have we really lost touch with what the earth will provide us so much? I wonder if the human race has become so used to what the supermarkets tell us we need to do, need to eat and need to buy and convinced us of what we CAN'T do, that we are forgetting where good food actually comes from? Our relationship with the earth we grow things in is declining and people need a serious wake up. Has consumerism convinced us that we need to spend so much money, even on growing our own things, that we can't even do it for ourselves any more? I love my local garden centre, run by good honest people, but we have all seen the novelty watering cans that won't do the job well and the grow your own herbs that come in a can there. I can't blame them for making some honest money, but people seem to have lost the ability to even throw seeds in soil now.

I still can't say that I convinced this particular lady, brought up with a gardener, (if you can pay a gardener, surely you can afford some compost and seeds). But money simply can't buy me the satisfaction I get from picking my humble tomato off the plant that I have nurtured from seed and biting into it.


  1. Great post Dan. Tomatoes here are tasteless the majority of time. They look lovely and juicy but have no taste whatsoever:( We had two tomato plants which grew from our compost bin and they turned out to be cherry tomatoes which we absolutely delicious. I tend to buy cherry tomatoes now which have far more flavour. I have to say I thought the ones in the UK were flavourless as well. I remember as a kid Blackpool tomatoes were full of flavour. We are hoping to get a few veggie beds up and running in the next few weeks. We have planted a banana tree and hope to have a crop at the end of the year. We have grown two pineapples which we were thrilled about. Our soil is non existent here so we will have to purchase some to make our veggie beds. Had such a laugh at the lady and her thoughts on tomatoes:)

  2. Somehow the commercial growers manage to grow all taste out don't they. How wonderful to be able to grow Bananas and pineapples.

  3. Hi Dan,
    just found your blog and am happily working my way through old posts and commenting merrily as well :o)

    I was brought up in Spain, but moved across to the UK years ago. The fruit and veg which I miss the *most* are tomatoes and peaches respectively. They just taste so much better there... I have attempted to grow my own tomatoes here before. Ended up with a lot of green tomato chutney I have to say as there wasn't enough sun for them to ripen that year!

  4. I have always been quite lucky with tomatoes but I have a south facing wall which retains heat and that coupled with a couple of hot summers has made for a very good crop - I may struggle more with that when I move North, but I will have to just get a greenhouse - still, green tomato chutney is really delicious! Thank you for all your comments, it is nice to know people read some of my minds wanderings..