September is the month for sowing tomatoes – growing your own opens up a new world of flavour and variety
By ALICE SPENSER-HIGGS
For the serious cook or tomato addict, there is only one way to experience the true taste of tomatoes: grow your own!
Spring and summer veggies can be planted in quick succession from now until November. When the last September cold snap is over, haul out the seed packets and start sowing.
The best position for veggies is a sunny, level area. Dig plenty of compost into the soil and add bone meal or an organic fertiliser, like Vita Grow 2:3:2.
Water well and sow or transplant seedlings the following day when the soil is still moist but not too wet.
In early September sow beetroot, carrots and radishes as well as cool season crops like peas, cabbage, spinach, Swiss chard, lettuce and rocket. Root veggies germinate in a lower soil temperature. Tomatoes, aubergines, peppers and squashes are long-season crops. To harvest in December, sow seed in trays or pots at the beginning of September so that by the end of the month it is possible to plant out young seedlings.
From mid-September onwards, sow runner beans and bush beans. For a constant supply, sow bush beans at three-weekly intervals throughout the season.
From the end of September to November, sow aubergines, cucumber, sweet and chilli peppers, tomatoes, bush and trailing squash, pumpkin and Hubbard squash, sweetcorn, watermelon and spanspek.
Sow in trays or pots using germination mix, not seedling mix.
Don’t let the soil dry out during germination.
Water consistently throughout the season and avoid wetting the leaves.
Heirloom tomatoes are those varieties originally grown by families or communities where the seed was handed down from generation to generation. The Amish Brandywine Off The Vine (OTV) is one of these and is considered the world’s tastiest tomato.
All heirloom tomatoes are open pollinated and most are indeterminate vine tomatoes. There are red, black, purple, yellow, green and striped varieties – and yes, ripe green tomatoes are delicious when fried. Heirlooms have found favour again because their flavour is regarded as far better than modern hybrids. Locally available heirloom seeds can be obtained through
www.livingseeds.co.za or www.organicseeds.co.za.
The right tomato
Paste tomatoes: San Marzano Redorta, Julia Child, Amish Paste and San Marzano Paste.
Sauce tomatoes: Santa Clara, Purple Russian and Costoluto Genovese.
Cooking tomatoes: Kellogg’s Breakfast, Black Plum and Black Cherry are exceptional roasting tomatoes.
Salad tomatoes: Brandywine, Golden Peach, Tigerella and Green Zebra.
Fresh eating tomatoes: all the cherry varieties, including White Currant and Yellow Pear. They are also good for roasting as they have a high sugar content.
• Tomatoes taste best at room temperature.
• Store tomatoes in baskets, not airless containers. They should not be more than two deep to prevent bruising.
• Purée or freeze excess tomatoes. Whole tomatoes can also be frozen.
• For the best roast tomatoes, cut in half, place face-down, drizzle with olive oil and roast at 140°C for two to three hours.
So good for you
Tomatoes are rich in vitamins A and C as well as lycopene, a natural antioxidant that helps to reduce the risk of cancer, especially breast and prostate cancer. Lycopene occurs just under the tomato skin and is released by cooking.
PLANT HERBS TOO…
Don’t forget that herbs such as basil, coriander, dill, nasturtium, flat-leaf parsley, chives, sweet and hot peppers and sage can also be sown in September.