Gregory Moore, University of Melbourne
When it comes to fruit and vegetables, the most common battleground (for parents and public health experts alike) is getting people to eat them. But there’s a battle over semantics too, because many of the things we call “fruit” and “vegetables” … aren’t.
In botanical terms, a fruit is relatively easy to define. It is the structure that develops from the flower, after it has been fertilised, and which typically contains seeds (although there are exceptions, such as bananas).
But while there is no doubt that tomatoes, cucumbers and pumpkins are fruits in the botanical sense, any linguist will tell you that language changes and words take on the meaning that people broadly agree upon and use. We live in a linguistic democracy where the majority rules. Read more
By Gail Thomas
Clockwise from top left, tomatillos, cape gooseberries, ground cherries (photo by Gail Thomas)
As alternatives for the garden cape gooseberries, ground cherries and tomatillos (all in the Physalis family) are both edible and ornamental with their fruit forming in protective lantern-like calyxes which conveniently keeps the birds and bugs at bay.
All three species are best planted in spring and treated similarly to tomatoes. The lemon/gold flowers develop into green calyxes which turn to a papery beige hue as the fruit, suspended inside ripens from late summer through to autumn. Read more
Black Cherry tomatoes ripening on the vine
Black Russian tomato
I’ve decided to take a chance and plant some early tomatoes. Diggers have some seedlings for sale so I bought 5 and I’ve planted them deep and surrounded some with large pots with the bottom cut out and planted one into a grow bag in a sheltered sunny position. I’m hoping they’ll survive and thrive, thumbing their noses at any cold weather and that they’ll be producing tomatoes before well Christmas. Read more
All about tomatoes and potatoes, peppers and other relatives, is another excellent book from Diggers and Clive Blazey. Although this small book does have all you need to know for your tomatoes to grow and thrive, it also looks at the history of tomatoes, talks about open-pollinated versus hybrid seed and why we all need to grow and save the free, open-pollinated, non hybridised types. Diggers has done years of research into tomatoes and their yields, colour, texture and flavour. Clive has listed the 60 that they think are the best. With mouth watering beautiful colour photos it’s hard to resist planting them straight away. But there are nearly 5500 heirloom varieties available around the world so maybe you need to try some of those too. The majority of the book is about tomatoes, but there are 8 pages at the back that cover some tomato relatives like potatoes, capsicums, eggplants, pepino and several more. Borrow it from your library, buy it from an independent bookshop or online from Diggers
All About Tomatoes by Clive Blazey, The Diggers Club, Dromana, Australia. Hardcover, 80pages, $24.95
Across southern Australia this week, gardeners are watching their tomato seedlings anxiously and hoping this season will be better than last. But I’ve been reading “Tomatoland”, by Barry Estabrook, and I will never look at a tomato the same way again.
Some people are tomato growers rather than gardeners. They grow nothing else. Tomatoes have a place in folklore. They prompt conversations in lifts between people who barely know each other: Will you have tomatoes before Christmas? Which ones have you put in this year? This week I bought supermarket tomatoes and they’re as tough as old boots and taste like nothing! Do you take out the
side shoots? Do they need more than potash? That smell! It takes me back. Why would you bother to buy them? Hydroponics? You must be joking. How can you grow a tomato without dirt? You might as well eat a kitchen sponge…
Would you like to know how modern industrial agriculture destroyed our most alluring fruit? Or more importantly, why? That’s the book that Barry Estabrook has written. Read more
Last weekend saw a celebration of old cultivars and varieties of both fruit and vegetables. At Diggers Heronswood, Dromana it has been the Harvest Festival Weekend with a really beautiful array of pumpkins and squashes, garlic for sale and tomatoes to taste. Nearly all of these are heirloom or open pollinated varieties that are so important both for our gardening history and our future. Heirloom and heritage varieties are an integral part of organic gardening, many are the result of selective breeding over numerous generations so that they show special characteristics.
Turk's Turban, Delicata, Potimarron, Australian Butter, Buttercup and Bohemian are just a few of the heirloom varieties of pumpkins available to grow.
Heirloom varieties of squash, gourds and small pumpkins
Orange and red striped Tigerella tomatoes not only look great the flavour is superb too.
A FRIEND has just arrived with that most treasured of gifts, fresh tomatoes, bless her glut. Black Krims, Little Sugars, Tigerella and Cherry Toms surplus to her own requirements, and a generous handful of fresh basil. She has had a good tomato season (mine was awful: I planted them in the wrong place, neglected them badly and missed one of summer’s pleasures). She is one of those natural gardeners who can grow anything without much apparent effort, and she has been a source of wisdom for years.
So I have immediate plans for them, involving garlic and basil and crisp salad greens and some proper rustic croutons warm from the oven, with a herby dressing and some warm, thinly sliced rare beef scattered over the top, and the pan juices poured over to mingle with the dressing. A very satisfactory meal, as long as everything is properly seasoned with plenty of salt and pepper. I don’t hold with a lack of seasoning: flavour is all. Read more