One of my favourite days of the year is the first warm day of spring when I dust off the propagator, buy some potting compost and look through the many packets of tomato seeds that I have bought or exchanged with friends and decide what which tomato varieties to grow this year. This is the sign that the long winter is finally over.
Home grown tomatoes hold the promise of long summer evenings in the garden, enjoying meals of colourful mixed salads, luscious pasta sauces, sweet roast tomatoes on toast with friends and family. That said, life just doesn’t get any better than biting into a warm cherry tomato straight off the vine.
I always get carried away, filling up too many trays of my favourites like Sungold, Gardeners’ Delight, Roma, Marmande, … and new varieties with promising names recommended by friends: Tigerella, Black Beauty, Costoluto or Green Zebra. I carefully drop tomato seeds into trays, cover with a vermiculite mix, water and place them on a bright windowsill. Over the next few weeks, the house and conservatory become filled with plants, taking more and more space as they grow and need repotting, before the day they can take their place in the garden or the greenhouse.
There is no way our garden could accommodate the dozens of plants I end up with so I sell some at school fairs or give them to friends, even those who have no garden. To gardening beginners and children, I give cherry tomato seedlings. They just need a grow bag or large pot on the balcony or the patio. Over the years, I have made many converts who ask me for plants or advice. Some have even started a small vegetable patch in the flowerbeds.
While I watch my seedlings grow, I will continue to use canned tomatoes, passata and tomato frito to prepare delicious pasta sauces, warming tomato soups or nourishing stews. I will however wait to pick my first homegrown tomato to have a fresh tomato salad. On that day, summer will truly have arrived.
Some of you surely have a similar relationship with your tomato plants?