Fun Fall Container Gardening
We are on the beach.
The warm sand under our feet is a blessing.
After spending months between the hold and the deck of a galleon, we can finally kneel down and kiss the steaming grains and plunge our hands in it.
“Land! Land!”, the scanty cabin boy shouted a few hours earlier, causing a huge turmoil to the exhausted crew of our ship. We departed from Spain, and we finally got to the New World, a land of wonders to be discovered. On the days following to the disembark, there’s no time to waste: time to get to work. Once the camp is set, arming ourselves with machetes and patience, we start exploring the jungle.
A bright, dazzling green accompanies our sight in every direction, only to be interrupted by the ochre soil under our feet, while we walk in single file. The mission will lead us to get in contact with the native local civilizations: the Maya and the Aztecs.
Once we’re back, the boxes on the ship are full of gold, gemstones, trinkets and…food.
A week after the high galleon rose anchor to take us back to homeland, the on-board cook experiments in the kitchen, in an attempt to discover the flavour of that blood-red, soft and velvety fruit we found. It’s an unforgettable flavour, it tastes like adventure, victory and mystery. The unique flavour of a tomato.
We are losing ourselves in the first days of March. The rain makes room to sunlight, as it’s finally beginning to last over 6 PM. Dry wintery air is changing, thanks to springy perfumes and mildest temperatures. These are the best of conditions to take care of my allotment, better said to my seedbed, which I desperately wanted for my house after my thirties; the same I used to have when I was a child, with my family. I’ve always had green fingers, since when I was a child, but in this case it’s useless when it comes to understand what I should do. What I have to do is to follow my natural instinct, my sense of smell and taste…
My family has always had an allotment. I remember that when I was six or seven, before starting with organizing the plantations, my dad involved all of us: my mum and my two siblings, and my uncle and my grandma as well. It was always the same question: “What would you like to eat this summer?”. I was always ready to reply, without a hint of hesitation: “Tomatoes!”. I was attracted by both their taste and colour.
I used to be, and I still am, the foodie of my family. I used to drool simply thinking about the dozens of recipes we would have been able to create with the different varieties of tomatoes.
So, comfortably reassured we would have had a generous harvest in a couple of weeks, my mind was wandering towards distant lands, whose fruits arrived in our territories. Why do Southern European-grown vegetables have American origins? Tomatoes, and potatoes likewise, can be found in every European family, especially in Mediterranean areas. This depends on simple reasons: both plants perfectly acclimated to our ecosystems, they are both rich in nutrients and, last but not least, they are tasty!
Tomato is a tasty food, which makes it the king when it comes to the preparation of several recipes: soups, sandwiches, purees, sauces and salads. And other than good, it’s healthy too. It has a good supply of vitamins and mineral salts. As the latest science news have shown:
As it has a low caloric intake, tomatoes are recommended in almost every kind of diet. Besides, it has a remarkable intake of vitamin C per gram. The same way we can’t do without fresh-squeezed orange juice as a prevention against seasonal sicknesses in winter, tomatoes will help us all summer long – as long as we consume it raw! With cooking, tomatoes would lose the most of the nutrients.
Tomato’s healthiness expands to the realm of cosmetics: it works wonders in soothing sunburns, and it’s an excellent ingredient for nourishing and toning face masks.
The general belief is it’s a vegetable. It actually is a fruit! The Aztecs knew it, they though it was an aphrodisiac food and they used it in the preparation of what we now call “tomato sauce”.
This red berry got to get to us European thanks to the Spanish colonization of the New World around 1540. At the beginning, it was used in France as an ornamental plant only, as its value was underestimated. Once it started to spread in the kitchens, no one was able to do without it.
The origins of tomato tell us a lot about the ideal climatic conditions for it to grow up at its best: it loves warm climates, it doesn’t matter if humid or dry. It adapts to every kind of soil – given it’s not excessively dry – and it can be farmed in greenhouses in every climate area all over Europe.
One of the top reasons to fall in love with tomatoes is we can find many varieties, actually thousand of them. They differ in shape, texture, amount of water, number of seeds, sweetness and sourness.
Crossbreeds between different varieties of tomatoes are similarly several – and counting. The actual trend is to satisfy, thanks to special crossbreeds, different climatic requirements.
Usually tomatoes need to be watered daily, but after having personally taken care of farming and harvesting San Marzano tomatoes in extremely warm and dry areas in Southern Italy, when water is an actual mirage in summer, I can affirm this fruit outstandingly bears drought.
As a child, I was used to follow their growth in the North, where my family comes from; there, rain regularity during spring was what determined the proper growth of tomatoes. Once I moved to the South, I thought to myself someone should have brought a water tank to irrigate the local San Marzano variety, but I had the chance to notice and appreciate they grow wonderfully even with some sporadic rain.
That’s the reason why growers and enthusiasts like I am try to create crossbreeds: we are seeking for the best to adapt and to resist to several kinds of soil.
To sum up – there’s a tomato to satisfy every taste, whether they are grown in the Netherlands, in Sweden or in Spain. Tomatoes never let you down.
Let’s start with a quick overview of Mediterranean area’s local varieties. Other than the already mentioned San Marzano, with no doubt the most renowned variety in the world, we can identify dozens of varieties growing in the area where tomatoes acclimatized at their best.
Not to forget: all of these varieties can be successfully grown in greenhouses in other European areas.
These are the most renowned, spread and loved varieties for European consumers. But let’s go on with our journey and find our which are the most loved and grown tomatoes in each European area.
The most common variety in Europe is the round smooth tomato. This is easily explained by its consumption. It’s used fresh in salads, but it’s great in hamburgers as well. Its main features are:
All of these qualities have made the most grown and consumed variety in Europe out of the round smooth tomato, especially in Great Britain and Germany.
In 2010, Cherry Zerbino variety has been successfully introduced in Northern European countries.
This is a great breed for Northern European cold climates. Really loved in Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands: this variety is not afraid of low temperatures, quite the opposite! For this reason, grow in warm-humid areas is not recommended in this case. Even if it resists cold, Cherry Zerbino needs to be exposed to the sun anyway. The best solution would be to keep the potted plants in the greenhouses during the night, and to put them in the sunlight during the day, when temperatures are nicer. Cherry Zerbino is round, striped on the outside and with a black pulp. What it makes it different form the majority of other tomatoes is that, other than being tasty, it’s not sour at all.
Our tomatoes are waiting for us: which variety did you pick up? We will come soon with an article with practical tips on tomatoes growing.
Di Eleonora De Paolis Foglietta
Eleonora De Paolis Foglietta is a contributor from international network Gushmag. Passionate about nature, gardening and art, she is founder of the Blueeco project. Her favourite quote is “the beauty will save the world”.
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