There are always problems with growing tomatoes. You always have too many plants and though you try to sell them or barter with them, so few people will actually take them on. We have over a hundred in the glasshouse, we have sold a dozen, will keep around twelve in the glasshouse for growing another thirty will go into open ground but sixty will wend their way to the compost heap. This isn't an unusual, talking with my neighbour about his open garden for charity last year, he admitted that the tomato plants they tried to sell, no one brought. They kept reducing the price until in the end they were trying to give them away with each purchase; still no one wanted them. The reasons varied from they didn't know how to grow them, that they were too labour intensive (or 'finicky') but the most honest buyers admitted it was cheaper for them to buy a punnet of tomatoes than grow them at home. The tomato has sadly become something that many gardeners and non-gardeners think as something cheaper to buy than grow. The supermarket isn't to blame for this, we are and we are in danger of losing another link with our food chain. There is no denying that a punnet of tomatoes (250g) can cost you 69p (99c) and that has had an effect on what we think of the tomato and why we choose not to grow them. The same can be said of onions, carrots and potatoes. How can the homesteader, allotment holder and gardener, or even the small scale producer, compete with something that is grown across vast tracks of land to drive down prices and choice. We all want reliable spuds, normally all rounders; ones that will fry, chip, mash and drive us to work. Same with onions and when choose the lazy, have it anytime around the year ethos, we do not just ourselves a disservice but the very product we are buying. We forget the time, not just of workers, but of plant breeders who have developed this vegetable over centuries and you will discard it because of cost, because of shape, because of colour and the last thing you will consider is taste. We are becoming a bland nation of bland eaters with bland thoughts.
Tomatoes are not seen as a luxury item. They are seen as a basic item that anyone can have, and that is wrong. It does damage to a long tradition of growing tomatoes under glass in the UK. Anyone who has grown tomatoes knows that a lot of work goes into them, from sowing to feeding, to maintaining a constant growing temperature but many of the tomatoes above are doomed to be composted. You can't even give them away, that is how detached we have come from growing tomatoes or maybe it is something far worse, maybe our apathy about food has grown so large that we are unwilling to even consider the nature of growing food. We don't want to argue food anymore, we would rather tuck our heads down and become: bland.
We love growing tomatoes at Pig Row. We love the smell of them, it reminds us of when we were children in our parents greenhouses, it reminds us of the treat to come. A real, freshly harvested tomato will never beat a supermarket one. A real heritage tomato will be sweet to the smell and sweeter to the tongue. We even got a polytunnel to grow more tomatoes and show you how simple it was. We want another greenhouse for exactly the same reason, a glut of tomatoes is a happy event. The problem we are faced with is a future of only a handful of varieties of tomatoes both in the supermarket and in the seed catalogues. Tomatoes that always promise to do well, be blight resistant and to dull our tastebuds. Growing shouldn't always be easy, tomato growing shouldn't always be simple, our food shouldn't mean cheap = bland. We should not aspire to be like this but still we will take these plants to the compost heap, as many gardeners will be doing across the country as their neighbour's pop down to the supermarket for a cheap punnet of tomatoes.