Tomato, beefsteak – Pantano Romanesco is the best beefsteak tomato of all time. The name ‘Lycopersicon derives from the Greek, ‘Lycos’ a wolf, and ‘persicon’, a peach probably in reference to its supposed poisonous qualities. ‘Esculentum’ however means edible. Rare Roman heirloom tomato said to have been grown in former marshes in Rome, Italy. Similar to Genovese Costoluto. Heirloom tomato seeds produce indeterminate, regular-leaf, highly productive vines yield large crops of 12 oz., brilliant-red, slightly-ribbed tomatoes with meaty interiors bursting with wonderful, rich, complex, tomato flavors. Expect a good production from these heirloom tomatoes. A great sauce tomato and a sensible choice for farmer's markets due to visual appeal and reputation for intense flavor.
Tomatoes are certainly one of the most exciting tunnels and greenhouse vegetables to grow. The flavor of home-grown tomatoes can never be matched by the bland and thick-skinned supermarket tomatoes. In fact, modern tomatoes are bred so that they will last for weeks on supermarket shelves and don’t bruise when handled. The other trouble is that they are grown without soil often in strawbale culture that is drenched with artificial fertilizers and with supplementary heat and lighting. They are nearly as badly treated as battery farmed hens.
The tomato grows wild in South America. It was first cultivated in Mexico by American Indians and brought back to Spain by Spanish conquistadores. In 1544 it reached Italy. Soon after it spread throughout Europe.
Soil and site
Tomatoes require a very fertile soil. Just imagine a full-sized tomato plant – well over two meters tall and all the hundreds of fruits it produces. It surely needs a lot of nutrients. The best feed is composted farmyard manure or garden compost. I usually incorporate a full wheelbarrow composted manure into the soil for every three square meters.
If they are grown in pots or grow bags ensure that the pots are large enough (40l) and that you don’t plant more than two plants per growbag.
Tomatoes need to be raised on a heating or warm south-facing windowsill. Best results are achieved when the temperature is set on 21ºC. Seeds are best sown in late February until mid-March into traditional open seed trays (not modular trays). Seeds should be sown thinly into the trays (about 100 seeds per standard tray) or pots (about 10 seeds per 9cm pot). Then the seeds should be covered lightly with seed compost using a sieve and pressed in using a wooden board that fits snugly into the tray.
Keep the trays moist at all times – never overwater them or let them dry out. The tomato seedlings should emerge after 10 days. It is very important to prick out the seedlings as early as possible, ideally into 10cm pots containing a richer potting compost. Remember to hold the seedling on the seed leaves (cotyledons) and plant the seedling so the seed leaves are just above soil level. During this stage, the plants should remain on the heating bench. Young plants in pots must be spaced out as soon as their leaves are touching – roughly about every three weeks. If you fail to do this the plants are becoming weak and spindly.
February to March
Sow 5 seeds into a small pot (7cm) and keep in a warm place. Pot on into individual 7cm pots when ready. Plant into greenhouse or polytunnel.
Spacing: Between rows- 50cm, Between plants in the row - 50cm
Latin name: Lycopersicon esculentum
Family: Solanaceae (Nightshade Family)
Is it a fruit or a vegetable?
When the plants are well rooted in their pots and before they get pot bound, they can be planted into the greenhouse or polytunnel. I would never plant them out before May. Tomato plants can be trained up strings that are attached to an overhead wire. After digging the planting hole lay the bottom part of the string into the hole and the other end tied to the overhead wire. Plant the tomato plant on top of the string and cover and gently firm the soil around the plant to leave no air pocket around the plant. If your tomato plants have become leggy you can plant them deeper. This will strengthen the plants.
The plants should be spaced out 50cm apart. You can have a single or double row per bed. The yield is obviously higher from a double row but a single row usually produces healthier plants.
Every week you will have to side-shoot your tomato plants. Many beginners find it difficult to distinguish between a leaf, a side-shoot, and a fruiting truss. The side-shoot is always the one in the middle – the one between the main stem and the leaf. The fruiting truss can be recognized by small yellow flowers and there is never a leaf below. Obviously, never remove the trusses otherwise you’ll have no tomatoes.
And no matter how long the side shoots are, even if they already have flowers or fruit on them – you have to remove them. When they are still quite small you can easily nip them off with your fingers. When they are bigger you better use a sharp knife or secateurs.
Apart from regular side-shooting you should also wind the growing plant around the twine or tie onto canes if that is your training method.
The lower leaves of the plants should be removed as soon as they start to discolor. There will be a much-improved air circulation around the plants and they will thank you with much healthier growth.