The Wolfpeach a.k.a The Tomato

The Wolfpeach or pomme d’ amour is probably the most well known vegetable, and the reason I believe for the rise of heirloom vegetables in general. Most people that grew up in the 60’s and 70’s and before, can remember either their Ouma’s or Mothers homegrown tomatoes, ones that had real flavor and texture. Not like what’s offered at the supermarket nowadays. We only get pale pink washed out mealy gritty tasteless pathetic excuses for a tomato. (Sorry I get carried away)

However, if one has ever eaten a tomato straight from the vine you know exactly what I’m talking about, even regular hybrid tomatoes taste better straight off the vine, but it’s when you grow your own heirloom tomatoes that you really get an education in flavor. The colours are more intense, the texture is superb, but it’s the flavors that will keep you coming back for more. Every tomato variety has their strong and weak points, heirlooms as well, but it’s the heirlooms that set the standard. You will never look at a tomato the same way again once you have been educated with the flavor of a Brandywine, Carbon, Amish Paste, Cherokee Purple or Black Krim. Even the names have a ring and a unique vibe.

Once you have had a season of eating your own tomatoes, trying to eat a supermarket tomato is going to be a challenge. I often leave tomatoes on my plate when I eat out, as I cannot face swallowing that pathetic excuse for a tomato, it’s just not right!

Apart from being the most requested vegetable seed on my site, tomatoes have a very interesting history. Originally from the mountains of Peru, the tomato first spread from the America’s via the Spanish conquistadores and became firmly entrenched into European cooking. When it was taken to North America, people believed that it was poisonous and thought that your blood would turn to acid if you ate one, this is less than 200 years ago mind you. There is a famous tale of Colonel Robert Johnson, who in an effort to prove that they were not poisonous sat down on the steps of his local Town Hall with a basket of tomatoes. People gathered from far and wide to watch this man die by his own hand…. they were disappointed.

The original tomatoes are thought to have been small cherry type tomatoes with either a yellow or green fruit. The genetic diversity that was inherent in the plant came out under different cultivation methods and different climates, giving us the astounding variety that we know today, with over 7000 named tomato varieties.

So from scorn and obscurity, the tomato has risen to become the preeminent redeemer of the humble heirloom vegetable. It has lead the way for all home gardeners who have an interest in growing their own foods, to explore the variety and unique flavors that other heirloom crops can provide for their families. At the same time, they are able to provide GMO and patent free foods to their families.

For those of you wondering where the name Wolfpeach comes from, Lycopersicon esculentum is the scientific name for the Tomato. The name Lycopersicon was derived from wolfpfirsich (Wolf Peach) which is what tomatoes were originally called in Germany, the person who created the taxa, Joseph de Tournefort (a Frenchman) did not help the case of the tomato in the early 1800’s so eventually esculentumwas added to the name. Literally translated this gives the Tomato the name of edible wolf peach.

Those of you looking to add to your seed collection cannot go wrong with a heirloom tomato or two, or selection is limited at this point, however we are busy expanding our supply with over 20 new varieties that we are sure will cater for most tastes.


What’s in our Garden

Well, it looks like we have seen the last of the bad frost, we may, just may get a few points of frost in the next week or two, but otherwise it’s roll on spring. Our wheat is throwing spikes, the first of the corn is coming up and our cold frame is doing wonders for the pumpkins, tomatoes and brinjals. We have had our ration of asparagus for this year and will have to wait until next for a full 2 weeks of picking. If you plant asparagus, the picking order goes like this. In the 1st year, no picking! 2nd year pick for 1 week, 3rd year pick for 2 weeks. 4 th year pick for 4 weeks. From year 5 and on you can pick for 6 weeks and no more. One planting will last 10 – 15 years. Work on 10 plants per person, seriously 😉

We also planted beans out and they look like they have not made the early planting, so we might have to re-sow, but I’ll check again this weekend and make a descison. Our peas are doing well and the carrots have started to come up as well.

As for the animals, Lacy is still due to drop her calf, we have a goose still on eggs and one turkey with 10 eggs under her and another busy laying (she’s on 6 eggs now) so all in all spring fever has hit our little farm.


Of Blight and Bent Cucumbers

Now I know I’m going to get a whole stack of emails saying that I’m beginning to sound like a doomsayer and that I think the sky is going to fall. Yes, I know, I know. I’m not saying let’s run scared for the hills, what I am saying is look at what’s happening elsewhere and take appropriate actions to prevent or minimize the damage in your own lives. Remember that we are just going into spring, the northern hemisphere is at the end of their growing season, so what happened there is a good indicator of potential problems in our season.

This post is based around a few articles that I have read over the last week. These are not fringe loonies that are publishing the articles (normally the first thing I look at) these are articles that have a real impact with regards to what we are trying to do, become self-sufficient and provide healthy living food for our own families.

The first article is on the unusually early and severe outbreak of Late Blight on Tomato crops in the US. Although the impact of this specific outbreak is limited to the US and should not have an impact on us, there are some important lessons that can be learnt from what it said in the article. All of the information can be applied locally or in fact anywhere in the world as similar growing, transport and sale methodologies are used in the seedling trade.

The first thing I find extraordinary is that the prime vector for the transmission of Late Blight is the distribution, sale and planting of infected seedlings (They call them ‘starts’). If you think about it, most seedlings are grown in highly intensive environments and all it takes is one diseased plant to infect a whole truck/nursery/farm/garden with minute fungal spores that will continue to spread the infection unnoticed. Something I have blissfully overlooked on many occasions.

Next there is a 20% increase in the end user costs for a packet of tomatoes, it’s the end of summer in the US and they should have bargain priced fresh produce right now with all the harvests coming in. But not so, my maths may be a bit wonky here, but for me a 20% increase in prices translates to at least a 20% loss of produce. Scary if you think about it, and they still have a month to go before field tomatoes get whacked by killing frosts.

With the financial crisis in the US they have had an increase of over 7 million home gardeners this year. This is mainly due to people trying to lighten the load on their monthly bills and stretch every penny. Most of these people take the position of buying seedlings to speed-up the growing cycle, or try to get around the issues of germination. Planting a seedling is much easier, I do agree. However, looking at the side effects I’m more than happy with the extra effort and to wait the extra time by growing my own from seed.

The next article is on a looming food crisis in the UK, without dissecting the nuts and bolts of the article I would like to mention a few things that strike me about this article (and many similar ones from around the world).

First, when things like this are published in a Nanny State like the UK it’s normally a primer to get people aware that they are going to have a problem, it more a case of ‘they’ know it’s going to happen, so how do they break the news to the GDP? (Generally Dumb Public) There have been food riots in many countries around the world recently. Most notably in the EU and Balkan States, but also in the UK and elsewhere.

If countries like the UK and EU are bleating about food crisis and lack of food supply, don’t you think it’s about time we started to prepare for a possible food shortage or crop failure on our side? On the flipside it could also be another GM propaganda tactic to gauge peoples feeling on Food Salvation via GM crops?

Next. The Great and Powerful EU is looking at ‘relaxing’ its idiotic Bent Cucumber Laws, specifically to get around the duel problems of the cost of food and the supply of food. So maybe there really is a food crisis and it’s not just propaganda.

It makes one sick when one thinks of the amount of waste generated in a first world society that regulates the curvature in a fruit. It will then relegate an ‘over bent’ fruit to lower quality class, that is often not sold but just dumped. It’s as if eating a bent fruit will give you dyspepsia, crooked teeth, or some other debilitating 1st world disease.

It’s even more ludicrous that if sold ‘bent’ fruits must be labeled for use only in cooking… come on, as if they have a lower nutritional value than unbent ones. What are they going to do, have sidewalk cucumber police checking your salads for bent cuc’s? I can just see the waiter in a trendy French Café “Oops, sorry officer but it’s not bent, I just slipped with the knife.” Just another regulation that will need to be enforced in an overly regulated society.

What on earth would they do with a basketful of heirloom tomatoes? Every single one looks different and is a different size and shape!!!


Whats in our Garden

Spring is here, ok it’s been a bit of a cold day today but here is irrefutable proof. My asparagus are pushing through. Our first harvest of the season is here!!asparagus_august

On Monday we had a whole 3 spears in our salad, my excitement is mounting day by day. I can’t wait for this weekend when we get to have a few spears each with garlic butter. When I stroll over and check them out I have to resist the temptation of just snapping one off and eating it just like that, I have to save enough for the weekend. But that does not stop my dog Cloe from racing through the bed to chase a passing horse or cyclist and snap off the occasional spear.

Most of the trees in the orchard are pushing blossoms and the Almond trees are in full bloom. The trees that threw blossoms a few weeks back are now full of leaves, but no fruit. The grape vines are still looking like dead branches, but I’m not worried there. They normally shoot out in early September anyway.

The veggie patch… OK here I need to hold myself back, as I just want to plant. Pea’s, Carrots (Red and White) and Brassica’s are in. Scarlett runners and a few other beans are in as well and we are eagerly awaiting the renewed spring growth from the carrots (for those of you looking for Purple Dragon Carrot seed) and for them to start flowering. The Bunching onions are also doing well, we should have some for sale in about 2 months time. The seeding in the cold frame are all doing well and we planted an additional 10 kinds of pumpkins on Monday morning. So, all we are wait for now is to start planting out, when? I dunno but will keep you up-to-date.

As for the rest of our ‘garden’, the turkeys have started to lay and we have one goose on eggs. I’ve been watching the poor Tom chasing the hens for the last few weeks and it looked like he was not getting any action, as the girls were head down picking at the green shoots coming through. However it looks like he’s doing his job. Our lambing season has started and we have had 5 stunning little rams born so far. One of the rams, a twin who I believe is mentally challenged, has been bottle feed for the last few weeks and it looks like he is weaning himself off now, which is a good thing as we were not enjoying the midnight trips to the stables. It’s not so bad now, but 4 weeks ago it was a real bind with the – 5’s and – 6’s

Our heifer Lacy (my 13th anniversary present to my wife) is due to drop her calf in the next 3 weeks so we are eagerly looking forward to getting our own fresh milk and cream, making butter and cheese and and and

And thats it guys, thank you for your emails and encouragement they are all appreciated.