21 September 2001




How do you like your tomatoes? Red and round, striped, orange, yellow,

plum shaped – whatever your fancy, they could be found at the Totally Tomato

Show at West Dean Gardens, near Chichester, Sussex.

Tomatoes are the latest "healthy food" and apparently the smaller the tomato the better it is for you – so paying extra for cherry tomatoes has its benefits.

Tomatoes first came to Europe courtesy of the Conquistadors who sent them back to Spain with plundered Aztec gold. They made their way to France via Morocco and Italy, acquiring the name pommes damour – love apples – due not to any aphrodisiac qualities but to a mistranslation of the Italian pomi dei moro – apple of the Moors. Here in Britain we were a little reluctant to eat them – after all they are botanically related to some very poisonous plants such as deadly nightshade! However, prejudice was overcome by the 19th century and, although British consumption lags behind other European countries, they are now integral to our diet.

There were over 170 varieties at the show including Yellow Ruffled, an excellent stuffing tomato that matures in 80 days; Ox Heart, rose-red and lantern shaped; the high yielding Bjskij Zoltyi, originally from Germany; the dark and nobbly Black Korim; the juicily-named Vintage Wine; and the tiny but perfect Lycopersicon pimpinellifolium Luteum.

Tessa Gates

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