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Magnificent Magnolias for our April Banner

Vegetables at Downside – tomatoes, sticcoli, squash, kale and lovage


There really is nothing like the taste of home-grown tomatoes.  Part of the reason for this is that, unlike other fruits, say apples or bananas, they stop producing the volatile flavour-giving molecules once they have been chilled.  The reddening and softening process continues but the flavour does not develop further.  As most supermarket tomatoes are picked ‘backward’, ie under-ripe to allow time for transport and distribution, they never reach their full potential.  Also, interestingly, the volatiles can leak out of the stem scar so ‘on the vine’ or tomatoes sold with the calyx on are a better buy.  When picking your own tomatoes, wait until they are red, but not soft, before storing in the refrigerator.

In our listings, we give the Brix value (which is a measure of sugar content) where available. Latest research shows that tomatoes with high levels of volatiles actually taste sweeter than you would expect from their Brix value.  Flavour is a complex thing!

Matina is very highly rated for volatiles. We persist in growing this variety because it is so good. Do not be put off by its odd-looking ‘potato’ leaves.  Potatoes and tomatoes are closely related, after all…  It is an easy-to-grow cordon – indoor or outdoor. Worth a try…

We have dropped Orange Santa this year. Nothing wrong with the tomato but the seed has become so poor that the percentage of useable seedlings has dropped below 50%, making it uneconomic for us to grow. We have replaced it with Sungold, which has an AGM. The seedlings were excellent quality and the plants are looking good, so we hope for some tasty trusses.

We have 14 varieties of tomatoes again this year all grown in 9cm pots.

Cordon/Indeterminate tomatoes – these varieties of the tomato plant are the most common and are grown as cordons (single stemmed plants with side shoots removed).
Bush/Determinate – these varieties stop themselves naturally with a truss and then develop more trusses on the side shoots. They generally crop sooner than cordons. 

Alicante Old favourite, indoor or outdoor (Cordon)
Black Opal Small sweet fruits, indoor or outdoor (Cordon) Brix 9
Floridity F1 Cherry plum ,TMV resistant, in or outdoor(Cordon) Brix 9.5
Gardener’s Delight Cherry type, good flavour, in or outdoor (Cordon) Brix7
Losetto Basket type, very early and blight resistant Brix 7
Maskotka Basket type, very early tasty good sized fruit
Matina Potato leaved, in/outdoor, top of Which flavour trials.(Cordon)
Moneymaker Classic variety, in or outdoor.(Cordon)
Olivade F1 Plum tomato. Some TMV resistance (Cordon)Brix 5
Red Alert Outdoor bush (Determinate), good flavour and yield
Shirley F1 Glasshouse, cold tolerant, high quality (Cordon)
Sungold F1 Orange cherry cordon variety. A.G.M.  Brix 10
Supersteak F1 Very large sweet fruits.Indeterminate (Cordon) Brix5
Tumbler F1 Popular basket type, early fruiting, good flavour Brix 6

The Brix value is the measurement used to determine how much sugar is in fruit. The higher the value, then the higher the sugar content and the sweeter the fruit will taste.    Here is a general scale to provide a reference point for bris measurements of tomatoes. (taken from Ball Colegrave)

Brix 4/5:               the majority of commercial tomatoes seem to fall into this range; often lack a distinguishing

Brix 7:                    Gardeners Delight sits about here

Brix 8:                    A denser, more intense and concentrated flavour. A noticeably good tomato

Brix 10:                 A tremendous varietal flavour. The experiencing of a truly great tomato


Our usual variety Alcazar is no longer available so this year we shall be growing Warwick, an F₁ variety for cropping November to April.  Highly recommended and looks very promising


We grew this broccoli/Chinese Kale hybrid for the first time last year. The idea was to crop it in October after the runner beans finished.  We didn’t get the timing quite right so it headed in September. It was so delicious we made another late sowing and put the plants in a cold glasshouse. We were rewarded by pickings from January to March.  We shall sow it later this year with the kale – well worth growing.

New Additions – Squash, Kale and Lovage

There will be patty-pan squash Moonlight this year and we are trialling Snack Pepper Red. This is quite a compact plant – 40/50 cm with snack-sized sweet peppers. It could easily be grown in a pot.

Cottagers’ Kale – this is a traditional stalwart of country gardens. It is perennial and sterile so when it gets too big you take cuttings and start again. You can harvest the young leaves all year round. James Wong was enthusing about it in The Observer (25th February 2018).  He also recommended Lovage which you can find on our herb bench.

See our full plant list on our website here

Image of Pea Sugar Snap for web, image taken in May

Pea Sugar Snap for web, image taken in May

a few of our salad and vegetable plants at Downside Nurseries

Salad and Veg at Downside Nurseries

Runner Beans at Downside Nurseries (May)

Runner Beans at Downside Nurseries (May)

Vegetables at Downside - leeks

Vegetables at Downside – leeks (taken in May)

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