Tips for the tastiest toms!
If you’re looking to take a step into the world of grow-your-own, it’s the perfect time of year to sow tomatoes!
Whilst our friends at BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine are on hand with tips to make the most of your tomato crop, we’ve got the perfect recipe from the BBC Good Food Show Summer 2022, as seen on the Italian Kitchen with Alex Hollywood; a delicious tomato and olive bread stick recipe to bring the fresh Italian summer flavour to your kitchen table.
The time for sowing tomatoes is between late January and late March, with harvests to come between July and October. This easy to grow crop does best when grown in full sun and there is a wealth of varieties to choose from, including cherry, plum, and beefsteak, with each of them having their own distinctive shape, flavour and culinary use.
Whilst it’s possible to buy young plants from garden centres, it’s also easy to grow from seed – especially for some of the more unusual varieties. There are two growing types to choose from – determinate (bush) or indeterminate (cordon) – with bush types being planted in pots or hanging baskets and cordons growing tall, supported by a cane or stake.
Once your crop is flourishing, bring the taste of the Mediterranean to your kitchen with a delicious tomato and olive bread stick recipe – a perfect accompaniment to hazy summer days.
Find out more about the recipe below…
How to grow
Growing from seed
- Sow seeds in 7.5cm pots of moist peat free compost, then water and cover with cling film. Stand on a warm, bright windowsill or in a propagator.
- Once germinated, remove the cling film (or take them out of the propagator) and keep the compost damp.
- Transplant seedlings when they reach about 2-3cm tall into 5cm pots filled with moist multi-purpose compost and return them to the windowsill. Keep potting on as necessary as they grow.
Planting tomatoes outside
- Your tomatoes can be moved outside once the last frost in May disappears.
- Choose a sunny, sheltered spot, where you can plant them into a border (into soil that has had plenty of well-rotted garden compost added), or into 30cm pots, or put two or three plants in a growing bag.
Growing in a greenhouse
- Growing tomatoes in a greenhouse gives you a longer growing season.
- Shade your plants from excessive heat, which could cause tough skins and blotchy ripening, by fitting some blinds, use shade paint, or hang woven shading fabric.
Caring for tomatoes
- Beginner gardeners will find it easier to work with bush tomatoes, as they require slightly less maintenance.
- Cordon tomatoes will need a stake for support and will need to have side-shoots pinched out to keep the plant fruiting on a central stem.
- Water regularly – irregular watering can cause fruit to split or develop hard black patches known as blossom-end rot.
- Once flowers appear, feed your plants weekly with a liquid tomato food or a high-potash fertiliser.
- If your fruits are hidden beneath leaves, thin out the foliage to give them a little more sun to ripen in.
It’s harvest time!
- Leave tomatoes to ripen on the vine to improve their flavour and pick once flush with the colour of their variety.
- Best eaten straight from the vine, they can be stored for a week or so at room temperature.
- Avoid storing in the fridge as this causes a mealy texture.
For more information on tomato varieties, growing tips and guides on cordon training, head to the BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine site.
Italian-style tomato & olive sticks
This recipe is from the BBC Good Food Show Summer 2022, as seen on the Italian Kitchen with chef Alex Hollywood.
Makes 3-4 sticks.
- 400g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp fast-acting dried yeast
- Olive oil, for drizzling
- Handful of stoned olives
- Handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1tbsp pesto mixed with 2tbsp olive oil
Tip the flour, sugar and 1 tsp salt into a large bowl. Combine the yeast with 350ml warm (not hot) water and slowly pour into the flour mix, bringing the wet dough together gently with your hands or a spatula. Cover and place in a warm, draught-free area until the dough doubles in size (around 2 hours).
Tip the dough onto a floured surface – it will be wet and gooey, so gently fold it into itself 5-6 times to make a wobbly rectangle shape. Place back in the mixing bowl, drizzle with some olive oil and a little sea salt, cover with a floured tea towel and leave to rise again in a warm place for at least 2 hours, until doubled in size.
Line two non-stick baking trays with silicone paper. Press the dough with your gingers to see if it leaves an indent – if it does, it’s ready. Tip out onto a floured surface, cut the dought into quarters or thirds (depending on how chunky you want your sticks to be) and gently stretch each one out to a stick shape the length of a tray, leaving room between sticks.
Heat the oven to 230C/210C fan/gas mark 8. Brush each stick with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, add a final dusting of flour, then press the olives and tomato halves into the dough. Allow to rise for another 10-15 mins, then drizzle with a little pesto and bake for 15-20 minutes depending on the thickness of the sticks.
Leave to cool and then enjoy!