Friday, August 28, 2009

I have written a few items on Heirloom and Hybrid Tomatoes. Now I really want to talk about ‘Aussie Toms’, heritage Tomatoes bred here in Australia for Australian conditions. Sounds awful doesn’t it? Standard advertising rubbish, but in this case it’s the truth.
Third of the Tomato H’s. Heritage. These are varieties that have been grown commercially but the hybridizing is very basic and seed can be collected from these plants and grown again year after year. All of the varieties still grown have survived because they have terrific flavour and vigour.
The thing that interests me is that many (most?) of these varieties were bred from a limited number of classic varieties imported to Australia early in the 20th century. Yes, you know who they are: Grosse Lisse and Rouge de Marmande plus a few others. Grosse and Rouge were imported from Algeria, via France and provided the standard against which all commercial Tomatoes are judged. Apart from the growth in popularity of Cherry and Roma Tomatoes, Grosse Lisse remains the Tomato flavour that all except the most exotic Heirloom varieties are judged against. Origin is interesting, isn’t it? Unfortunately I can’t tell you a great deal more about these two classics, still amongst the most popular varieties on our list. Grosse has flavour, acidity and round fruit. Rouge provides flavour, cold tolerance and that classic lumpy, oblate fruit shape.
This season, as well as our favourite originators we are growing a selection of Aussie bred Heritage Classics, here is some information on a few.
Burnley Surecrop. Victorian Department of Agriculture breeding and ideal for growing in Victoria and southern parts of South Australia and Western Australia. Round, medium/large fruit maturing up to 2 weeks earlier than Grosse Lisse. The flavour is rich and a little acid. Sure Crop is vigorous and has good disease resistance.
Es-58. Another product of Victorian Dept. of Agriculture breeding, possibly also known as Heinz’s Es-58 (I just like the old breeders line numbers like KY1, I assume KY stood for Kyabram). A genuine ‘South Australian’ style with medium/large flat, ribbed fruit on bushy plants. Ideal for cool conditions
College Challenger. Released by the Hawksbury Agricultural College in 1960. Improves Grosse Lisse with earlier fruiting on stronger and more vigorous plants. Large, round, red flavoursome fruit.
Colonial. A simple cross of Break O Day and Rouge de Marmande offering great flavour, disease resistance and productivity across a broad climate range including Tasmania. Fruit is relatively small but the plants are very productive.
Now, just one last thing to remember, we have these plants ready for sale, but at this stage we have no labels. Labels will take another 2 weeks perhaps, so I’ll report in on where you can purchase Australian Heritage Tomatoes in your favourite garden centre. I the mean time check out the Tesselaar’s mail order catalogue for the first Tomatoes I have ever sold by mail order.

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