One of the great pleasures of kitchen gardening is access to tomatoes with taste. This is a pleasure that creeps up on one; months of careful work sowing seeds, raising and planting out seedlings, staking and endless tying and pruning of tomato vines suddenly bears fruit. Tomatoes redden and soften, then suddenly there is a glut and tomato bottling for sauces looms over the household.
Big ones, little ones, red ones, yellow ones – some of these tomatoes are eaten straight off the vine and never make the journey up to the kitchen. The smaller tomatoes are Golden Sunrise and Tommy Toe, with the bigger beefsteak tomatoes being Mortgage Lifter, Burpee’s Delicious and Oxheart (the cook’s favourite). Growing different varieties simultaneously hedges the gardener’s bets against failure. I’ve learnt not to be too greedy when planting out – tomatoes are the most labour-intensive of all the kitchen gardener’s crops. This year, aided by a mild summer, I’ve brought 36 vines through into the autumn harvest; they all stand taller than me, and I’m a big bloke!
And so, the gardener’s reward arrives. A simple moment of intense pleasure – a supper of tomato-on-toast with a little olive oil, herb salt and ground pepper, with a few basil leaves on the side for piquancy. Life’s good!