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Tomatoes, with their juicy goodness and versatile uses, have earned a cherished spot in our kitchens and gardens. As we embark on a Tomato Talk, let’s address some of the most common questions about this beloved fruit. From cultivation to culinary applications, we’ve got your tomato queries covered!

  1. How Do I Grow Tomatoes Successfully?

Cultivating tomatoes is a rewarding venture, and success starts with the basics:

  • Sunshine Lover: Tomatoes thrive in sunlight. Ensure your plants receive at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight daily.
  • Well-Drained Soil: Plant tomatoes in well-draining soil to prevent waterlogging, a common woe for these plants.
  • Watering Wisely: Keep the soil consistently moist, but avoid overwatering. Irregular watering can lead to issues like blossom end rot.
  • Support Systems: Many tomato varieties benefit from staking or caging to support their growth and prevent sprawling.
  1. Why Do My Tomatoes Have Cracks?

Cracked tomatoes can be a bit disappointing, but understanding the causes can help prevent this issue:

  • Inconsistent Watering: Fluctuations in watering, especially irregular watering followed by heavy watering, can lead to cracks.
  • Variety Matters: Some tomato varieties are more prone to cracking. Consider growing crack-resistant varieties.
  • Weather Factors: Rapid changes in weather, particularly fluctuations in temperature and humidity, can contribute to cracking.
  1. Can I Grow Tomatoes in Containers?

Absolutely! Container gardening is a fantastic option, especially for those with limited space. Here’s how to make it successful:

  • Choose the Right Container: Opt for large containers with good drainage to accommodate the tomato’s root system.
  • Quality Soil: Use high-quality potting soil that provides the necessary nutrients.
  • Support the Plant: Many compact or determinate tomato varieties do well in containers. Use stakes or cages for support.
  1. How Can I Ripen Green Tomatoes?

Sometimes you find yourself with a bounty of green tomatoes. Fear not, as you can ripen them indoors:

  • Paper Bag Method: Place green tomatoes in a paper bag with a ripe banana. The ethylene gas from the banana speeds up ripening.
  • Windowsill Ripening: Arrange green tomatoes on a sunny windowsill, and they’ll gradually ripen.
  1. What’s the Best Way to Store Tomatoes?

Proper storage ensures your tomatoes stay fresh and flavourful:

  • Room Temperature: Keep fully ripe tomatoes at room temperature for the best flavour. Only refrigerate if they’re overripe and need to be used soon.
  • Separate from Fruits: Store tomatoes away from fruits like bananas and apples, as these release ethylene gas, which can hasten ripening.

In the vast world of tomatoes, the Piccolo variety stands out as a petite powerhouse of flavour. These small, vibrant tomatoes may be diminutive in size, but their taste packs a punch that rivals their larger counterparts. In this blog, we delve into the unique characteristics, cultivation tips, and culinary delights offered by the charming Piccolo tomato.

  1. Tiny Marvels of Flavour:

Piccolo tomatoes, aptly named for their small size, typically measure about one inch in diameter. Despite their petite stature, these tomatoes are bursting with intense, sweet, and tangy flavours. The concentrated taste is often described as a delightful blend of sweetness and acidity, making them a favourite among tomato enthusiasts.

  1. Appearance and Varieties:

Piccolo tomatoes come in various colours, with red and yellow being the most common. The red Piccolo tomatoes exhibit a classic tomato hue, while the yellow variety offers a bright and sunny alternative. Both types share the same rich flavour profile. Their round shape and glossy skin contribute to their visual appeal, making them an attractive addition to salads and culinary presentations.

  1. Cultivation Tips:

Growing Piccolo tomatoes can be a rewarding experience, whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a novice. Here are some cultivation tips to ensure a thriving Piccolo tomato plant:

  • Container Gardening: Piccolo tomatoes, being compact plants, adapt well to container gardening. Choose a pot with good drainage and fill it with nutrient-rich soil.
  • Sunlight Requirements: Like their larger counterparts, Piccolo tomatoes thrive in full sunlight. Ensure they receive at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight daily for optimal growth and fruit development.
  • Watering: Keep the soil consistently moist, avoiding waterlogging. Mulching around the base of the plant helps retain moisture and regulate soil temperature.
  • Support and Pruning: Provide support for the plants, especially when they start bearing fruit. Stake or cage the plants to prevent sprawling. Regular pruning of excess foliage encourages better air circulation and minimizes the risk of diseases.
  1. Culinary Delights:

The versatility of Piccolo tomatoes extends to the kitchen, where their intense flavour elevates a variety of dishes. Here are some culinary delights to explore:

  • Fresh Salads: Add a burst of flavour to salads by tossing in halved Piccolo tomatoes. Their vibrant colours and rich taste complement greens and other vegetables.
  • Bruschetta: Create a classic bruschetta by combining diced Piccolo tomatoes with garlic, basil, olive oil, and a pinch of salt. Serve on toasted bread for a simple yet delightful appetizer.
  • Pasta Sauces: Piccolo tomatoes make excellent pasta sauces. Simmer them with garlic, onions, and herbs for a quick and flavourful tomato sauce.

The Piccolo tomato variety is a testament to the idea that good things often come in small packages. From their intense flavour to their adaptability in cultivation, Piccolo tomatoes have earned a special place in the hearts of gardeners and food enthusiasts alike. Whether enjoyed fresh in salads or incorporated into a variety of dishes, these tiny marvels never fail to deliver a burst of summer goodness. Consider introducing the Piccolo tomato to your garden or kitchen for a delightful experience that proves great flavour knows no size.

While winter typically signals a slowdown in gardening, cultivating tomatoes at home during the colder months is not only possible but incredibly rewarding. With a bit of planning and the right techniques, you can enjoy the juicy goodness of homegrown tomatoes even when the snow is falling outside. In this guide, we’ll explore the steps to successfully grow tomatoes indoors during the winter months.

  1.  Selecting Tomato Varieties:

Choose tomato varieties that are well-suited for indoor growing. Compact or dwarf varieties work best, as they adapt well to container gardening. Cherry tomatoes, such as Tiny Tim or Micro Tom, are popular choices for indoor cultivation due to their smaller size and shorter growing season.

  1. Choosing the Right Containers:

Opt for containers with good drainage to prevent waterlogging. Use nutrient-rich, well-aerated potting soil that retains moisture. Consider self-watering containers to maintain consistent soil moisture levels. Each tomato plant should ideally have a container with a minimum size of 5 gallons.

  1. Providing Adequate Light:

Light is crucial for indoor tomato plants, especially during winter when natural sunlight is limited. Place your containers near a south-facing window to maximize sunlight exposure. Additionally, supplement natural light with artificial grow lights, placing them 6-12 inches above the plants for 12-16 hours per day. High-quality LED or fluorescent lights work well for this purpose.

  1. Optimising Temperature and Humidity:

Tomatoes thrive in temperatures between 65°F and 75°F (18°C to 24°C). Ensure your indoor space maintains these temperatures, avoiding drafts and sudden temperature fluctuations. Use a humidity tray or humidifier to maintain a humidity level of around 50-70%, as tomatoes appreciate slightly higher humidity.

  1. Pollination Techniques:

In the absence of outdoor pollinators, you may need to assist in the pollination process. Gently shake the plants or use a small, soft brush to transfer pollen between flowers. This mimics the action of bees and helps ensure proper fruit development.

  1. Feeding and Watering:

Use a balanced, water-soluble fertiliser to provide essential nutrients to your tomato plants. Feed them every 2-3 weeks during the growing season. Water consistently, keeping the soil evenly moist but not waterlogged. Adjust watering frequency based on the specific needs of your tomato variety.

  1. Pruning for Productivity:

Regularly prune your tomato plants to encourage airflow and prevent the development of diseases. Pinch off suckers (side shoots) to direct the plant’s energy toward fruit production. Additionally, remove any yellowing or damaged leaves.

Happy gardening!

Sustainable energy, often harnessed from sources like solar, wind, and hydropower, offers a multitude of benefits for our planet and society. It significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions, mitigating the impacts of climate change. By relying on clean, renewable sources, we can decrease our reliance on fossil fuels and transition to a low-carbon future. This is why at R&L Holt, we take sustainable energy practices seriously and our aim is to do the very best for our plants and our plant.

Are you wondering what we do to keep our practices sustainable? Keep reading…

  1.     Energy and Heating

With protected crops and all year round production we do heat our crops in the UK as do growers in all of Northern Europe. To remain efficient and sustainable we use steam and hot water biomass boilers and have CHP engines to help power the lit crops. We use gas via anaerobic digestor plant and utilise the byproduct carbon dioxide to help the crops to grow.

  1.     Water

All sites have reservoirs that collect rain water. With filtration and sterilisation equipment used we recirculate solution in closed systems to ensure we are efficient with this resource.

  1.     Pollination

We use Native bumble bees to pollinate our plants with the aim to work simultaneously with bees to benefit them and our plants.

  1.     Biological Control

An IPM (Integrated Pest Management) approach to control pest and disease is used. Introductions of natural predators in the crop helps to reduce crop stress and leaf damage and help to optimise the growth of the crop.

  1.     Climate Control

This high-tech industry has computers controlling the climate. This includes monitoring temperature, humidity, ventilation, screening, irrigation and lighting.

  1.     Waste Material

All leaves and waste from the plants is used in the Anaerobic Digestors or composted.

The tomato, now an indispensable part of British cuisine, has a fascinating history in the United Kingdom. However, it wasn’t always welcomed with open arms. In this blog, we’ll take a journey through time to explore the intriguing story of how the tomato evolved from a suspicious, even feared, fruit to a beloved ingredient in British cooking.

Tomatoes: An Exotic Arrival:

In the early 16th century, tomatoes arrived in Britain as part of the Columbian Exchange, which brought New World crops to Europe. Initially, they were viewed with scepticism and even fear. The tomato’s vibrant red colour led many to believe it was poisonous, a suspicion further fuelled by its botanical relationship to the deadly nightshade family.

Tomatoes as Table Ornaments:

For several centuries, tomatoes were primarily grown as ornamental plants rather than food. Their striking appearance made them popular in European gardens, but they were rarely found on British plates.

A Slow Culinary Evolution:

It wasn’t until the 18th century that the tomato began to make its way into British cuisine, albeit cautiously. Early recipes featured tomatoes in pies, often combined with sugar and spices to temper their perceived tartness. Slowly, the tomato was inching its way into British kitchens.

The Influence of Italian and Spanish Cuisine:

The breakthrough for the tomato in Britain came with the influence of Italian and Spanish cuisine. Both of these cuisines embraced tomatoes, and as British travellers and traders returned from these Mediterranean regions, they brought back a taste for tomato-based dishes.

Tomato Triumphs in the 19th Century:

The 19th century saw a surge in the popularity of tomatoes in Britain. They were featured in soups, sauces, and salads. The publication of Mrs. Beeton’s “Book of Household Management” in 1861 included numerous tomato recipes, helping to cement their place in British cooking.

Tomatoes in the Modern British Diet:

By the 20th century, tomatoes had become a staple in the British diet. The introduction of tomato ketchup, canned tomatoes, and tomato-based products further solidified their status. Today, tomatoes are essential ingredients in classic British dishes like the full English breakfast and Ploughman’s lunch.

The Tomato’s Health Benefits:

Apart from their culinary significance, tomatoes gained recognition for their health benefits. They are rich in vitamins, particularly vitamin C and lycopene, a powerful antioxidant linked to heart health and cancer prevention.

The tomato’s journey through British history is a testament to the ever-evolving nature of culinary traditions. From being feared as poisonous to being celebrated as a versatile and nutritious ingredient, the tomato’s acceptance in British cuisine is a story of adaptation, openness to new flavours, and the enduring appeal of delicious food. Today, tomatoes stand as a symbol of the diverse and vibrant culinary landscape in the United Kingdom, and their journey is a testament to the power of culinary curiosity and innovation.

Summer’s vibrant tomato harvest can be overwhelming, leaving you with an abundance of this juicy fruit. Rather than letting them go to waste, preserving tomatoes at home ensures you can enjoy their freshness and flavour year-round. Whether you have a sprawling garden or picked up a bounty at the farmer’s market, here are the best ways to make those tomatoes last.

Canning for Longevity

Canning is one of the most popular and efficient methods to preserve tomatoes. It locks in their freshness and flavour, allowing you to enjoy them in sauces, soups, and stews throughout the year.

Whole Tomatoes: Start by blanching tomatoes to remove their skins. Then, pack them into sterilized jars with a bit of lemon juice or citric acid to preserve colour and acidity. Process the jars in a water bath canner.

Tomato Sauce: Simmer down a rich tomato sauce with garlic, onions, and herbs. Pour the sauce into sanitized jars and process in a water bath. This sauce becomes a versatile base for pasta, pizzas, and more.

Salsa: Create zesty tomato salsa by combining tomatoes, onions, peppers, and cilantro. Process the jars in a water bath for salsa ready to grace your tortilla chips.

Freezing for Convenience

Freezing tomatoes is a straightforward method that retains their vibrant colour and flavour, perfect for recipes like chili and curries.

Blanched Tomatoes: Start by blanching tomatoes in boiling water for a minute, then transferring them to an ice bath to stop the cooking process. Remove the skins and freeze the tomatoes whole or chopped.

Tomato Puree: Blend fresh tomatoes into a puree and freeze it in airtight containers or ice cube trays. This puree can be used in a variety of dishes like soups and sauces.

Drying for Intense Flavour

Drying tomatoes concentrates their flavours into a chewy, intensely flavoured form. They’re a fantastic addition to salads, pasta, and sandwiches.

Sun-Drying: If you live in a sunny, dry climate, sun-drying is an option. Slice tomatoes and lay them out in a sunny spot with good air circulation, often on screens or trays. This method can take several days.

Oven-Drying: If you don’t have the climate for sun-drying, use your oven. Place sliced tomatoes on baking sheets, sprinkle with salt, and bake at a low temperature (around 93°C) for several hours until they reach your desired dryness.

Pickling for a Tangy Twist

Tomatoes can also be pickled to create tangy, flavourful additions to salads, sandwiches, and cheese platters.

Cherry Tomatoes: Cherry tomatoes are ideal for pickling. Combine them with vinegar, sugar, and spices to create a pickling brine. Pack the tomatoes into sterilised jars, pour the brine over them, and process in a water bath.

Preserving tomatoes at home not only reduces food waste but also allows you to savour the taste of summer all year long. Depending on your preference and culinary needs, choose from canning, freezing, drying, or pickling methods. With a well-preserved tomato stash, you’ll always have the base for delectable sauces, hearty soups, and vibrant salads right at your fingertips, regardless of the season. So, seize the moment and capture the essence of summer in your kitchen with these preserving techniques.

World Heart Day is celebrated annually on September 29th and is a global campaign dedicated to raising awareness about heart health and cardiovascular disease prevention. It serves as a reminder that heart disease remains the leading cause of death worldwide, yet it’s largely preventable through simple lifestyle changes. On this day, organisations, healthcare professionals, and communities unite to promote heart-healthy practices such as regular physical activity, maintaining a balanced diet, and avoiding tobacco use. World Heart Day encourages individuals to prioritise their cardiovascular health and underscores the importance of early detection and management of heart-related conditions. It’s a day to inspire positive choices and to emphasise that everyone can take steps towards a healthier heart, ultimately reducing the burden of heart disease on a global scale.

Tomatoes have many benefits for one’s heart due to their rich content of lycopene, an antioxidant that helps reduce the risk of heart disease by preventing the oxidation of LDL cholesterol.

They improve Cardiovascular Health as tomatoes are rich in lycopene, an antioxidant known for its heart-protective properties. Lycopene helps reduce the risk of heart disease by preventing the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, a major contributor to atherosclerosis.

They also benefit Blood Pressure Regulation as the potassium content in tomatoes plays a role in regulating blood pressure. A diet that includes potassium-rich foods like tomatoes can help lower high blood pressure, reducing the strain on the heart and decreasing the risk of hypertension-related heart issues.

Finally tomatoes Lower Inflammation as they contain anti-inflammatory compounds like vitamin C and beta-carotene, which can help reduce inflammation in the blood vessels. Chronic inflammation is associated with heart disease, making tomatoes a valuable addition to an anti-inflammatory diet that supports heart health.

As summer transitions into autumn, it’s essential to give your tomato plants the care they need to thrive in changing conditions. Tomatoes can be sensitive to temperature fluctuations and decreasing daylight hours, so proper attention is crucial to ensure a bountiful harvest and healthy plants. In this blog, we’ll explore three valuable tips to help your tomato plants as they head into autumn.

  1.     Pruning and Managing Foliage:

As autumn approaches, it’s time to reassess the foliage on your tomato plants. Overly dense foliage can inhibit air circulation and trap moisture, creating a breeding ground for fungal diseases. Here’s what you can do:

  •       Remove Excess Foliage: Prune away any excess leaves and branches that have become overcrowded. Focus on the lower leaves, especially those touching the ground, as they are more susceptible to diseases. This will improve air circulation and reduce the risk of fungal infections like late blight.
  •       Stake or Cage Support: Ensure that your tomato plants are adequately supported by stakes or cages to keep the fruits off the ground. This not only prevents rot but also makes it easier to access the ripening tomatoes.
  •       Mulch: Apply a layer of mulch around the base of your tomato plants. Mulch helps regulate soil temperature, conserve moisture, and reduce the splashing of soil onto the leaves, which can carry diseases.
  1.     Adjusting Watering Practices:

Autumn often brings cooler and more humid conditions, which can affect your tomato plants’ water needs. Here’s how to adapt your watering practices:

  •       Reduce Frequency: With cooler temperatures and shorter daylight hours, tomato plants generally require less water. Adjust your watering schedule accordingly, allowing the top inch or two of soil to dry out between waterings. Overwatering can lead to root rot and other issues.
  •       Water at the Base: To prevent fungal diseases, water your tomato plants at the base, avoiding overhead watering. Drip irrigation or a soaker hose is an effective way to deliver water directly to the root zone.
  1.     Protecting from Early Frosts:

Autumn nights can bring unexpected frosts that pose a threat to your tomato plants. To safeguard your harvest, consider the following:

  •       Cover Plants: When frost is in the forecast, cover your tomato plants with blankets, row covers, or frost cloth. This provides insulation and helps trap heat radiating from the soil, protecting the plants from frost damage.
  •       Harvest Green Tomatoes: If a hard frost is imminent and your tomatoes haven’t ripened yet, consider harvesting them while they are still green. Place them in a cool, dark place and allow them to ripen slowly indoors.

 Transitioning your tomato plants into autumn can be a rewarding endeavour with these essential tips. Proper pruning, adjusted watering practices, and protection from early frosts will help ensure a healthy and productive tomato crop as the seasons change. By giving your tomatoes the care they need in the fall, you can continue to enjoy delicious, homegrown tomatoes well into the cooler months.

In the world of condiments, tomato ketchup holds a special place in the hearts of many, and the United Kingdom is no exception. Whether it’s drizzled on chips, slathered on burgers, or used as a dip for a hearty bacon sandwich, ketchup is a beloved companion to numerous British dishes. But which brand of tomato ketchup reigns supreme as the UK’s favourite? Join us on a saucy journey to uncover the brand that holds the top spot and explore why it has earned the adoration of Brits across the country.

Heinz: The Unrivalled Champion

When it comes to tomato ketchup in the UK, one name consistently rises above the rest – Heinz. With its iconic glass bottle and unmistakable taste, Heinz Tomato Ketchup has won the hearts and taste buds of Brits for generations. But what sets Heinz apart, making it the undisputed champion of ketchup in the UK?

Time-Tested Tradition

Heinz Tomato Ketchup has a long and storied history in the UK, dating back to the late 19th century. Its enduring presence on British dining tables has established a sense of tradition and nostalgia. Many Brits have fond memories of squeezing that familiar bottle, making it a staple in countless family meals and gatherings.

Consistency is Key

One of the reasons Heinz has maintained its popularity is its unwavering commitment to consistency. The recipe remains virtually unchanged over the years, ensuring that each dollop of ketchup tastes just as delicious and familiar as the last. Brits have come to rely on the dependable flavour and quality of Heinz.

Versatility and Reliability

Heinz Tomato Ketchup’s versatility is another reason it’s the go-to choice for many. It pairs perfectly with a wide range of dishes, from the classic bacon butty to gourmet burgers and everything in between. Its thick, rich texture and balanced sweetness complement a variety of flavours, making it a reliable condiment for any meal.

The Ketchup Craze: Beyond Heinz

While Heinz Tomato Ketchup undoubtedly holds the crown, the UK’s ketchup scene has witnessed a surge in creativity and diversity in recent years. Artisanal and small-batch ketchup producers have emerged, offering unique flavours and ingredients that cater to evolving tastes.

Some adventurous eaters are exploring alternatives like spicy ketchup, beetroot ketchup, or even homemade versions, adding a new layer of excitement to the ketchup experience. These options, while not dethroning Heinz, have carved out their niches among curious food enthusiasts.

In the UK, Heinz Tomato Ketchup remains the undisputed favourite, an integral part of the nation’s culinary identity. Its enduring appeal lies in tradition, reliability, and versatility, making it a beloved condiment that continues to win over hearts and palates. While other ketchup options may tantalize taste buds, Heinz’s legacy is a testament to the enduring love affair between Brits and their favourite tomato ketchup. Whether it’s a chip butty or a gourmet burger, you can be sure that a dollop of Heinz Tomato Ketchup will always be close at hand.

R&L Holt has been a hot spot for celebrities to visit over the years. Want to know more? Keep reading to see if you recognise any of our celebrity visitors… 

  • John Craven visited us for his carbon footprint feature for Countryfile
  • Gary and Barry Lineker filmed their Walkers Crisps advert in our nurseries 
  • Matt Dawson filmed his cooking show in our gorgeous greenhouses
  • Tom Aiken from Vale Produce gave us a visit 
  • Another celebrity from Countryfile, Adam Henson, filmed a Winter Production and LED Lighting feature with us 
  • Brian Turner from the Food Program came to R&L Holt 
  • Maddy Moates from ‘Do You Know?’ popped to see us for some filming 
  • Jimmy Doherty from ‘The Bees’ was one of the first celebrities to visit us at R&L Holt

Who do you think will be the next celebrity to visit our tremendous tomatoes at R&L Holt?