Archive for the ‘Vegetable varieties’ Category

Cherry Tomatoes

Cherry Tomatoes

During last summer’s rainy weather, I realized that a cherry tomato has a better chance of ripening and producing a good yield in poor conditions than a big beefsteak, so it is wise to hedge one’s bets and have a few of them in the garden. Cherries are cute, child-friendly and useful. tossing a few in a dish is somehow less fuss than dealing with a large tomato.

I do appreciate the standard cherry tomato that pops up everywhere – and I mean in garden centres as well as sown by the birds in all sorts of places-but it has its drawbacks. With its tough skin and seedy, watery interior, I always seem to get squirted when trying to halve them for salads! The flavour is so-so, unless it is almost overripe, and they do make your salad or tomato tart a bit watery too.

The following two alternatives from the USA have both won taste tests for sweetness and flavour and are very worthy of garden space and some loving care:

Isis Candy

Pretty marbled  bicolor cherry tomatoes are red with a spectacular cat’s eye starburst on the blossom end. Shape and colouring apparently vary- it’s my first year growing this one. Rich, sweet, fruity flavor. Plants are loaded with 30mm fruits in clusters of 6-8.

Bicolor Cherry

Here’s one I did indeed grow last season. Bicolor Cherry is still unknown and rare. Having received a few seeds from the States, I planted one in a large tub on my stoep. In this protected spot it grew very tall, took its time to start producing, and then kept on bearing very sweet pinky-orange cherries until deep into winter. Even the last ones that didn’t fully ripen were supersweet and flavourful- and we’re talking August.


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Tuscany is best known in Pretoria as a destination, source of Chianti, and a controversial building style.

But now we have Tuscan kale, a pebbly crinkly blue-black member of the cabbage family which possesses untold virtues.

In a market in a Florence, a shopper would find it labeled as cavolo nero (“black cabbage”), although it never forms a cabbage-like head and it is merely dark, not black. Some marketers and chefs call it dinosaur kale – dino kale, for short – possibly because its roughness suggests the presumably leathery skin of those long-extinct creatures. And some call it lacinato – a word probably derived from an Italian botanical term – laciniato – that describes the crinkly leaves.

Tuscan kale is extraordinarily nutritious: a cup provides more than 100 percent of the daily value of vitamins K and A, and 88 percent of the DV for vitamin C. Like other members of the brassica family such as cabbage, broccoli  and Brussels sprouts, kale is a rich source of organosulfur compounds that have been linked to cancer prevention.

It’s also an ornamental and productive plant for the small garden. Aa healthy specimen of Tuscan kale can reach two to three feet tall, sometimes even taller. Their palm-tree-like appearance and interesting texture combine well with ornamentals, so you could group it in a flower bed with some orange nasturtiums or marigolds.

Kale can be snipped for salads, added to soups, or sautéed with garlic and olive oil.



Emeril’s Sauteed Tuscan Kale With White Beans



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Black Krim Tomato

Tomato Black Krim


Originally from the Isle of Krim on the Black Sea in the former Soviet Union. It seems that the blackish-coloured tomatoes originated from Russia where they were bred this colour for maximum light and heat absorption during short and unpredictable summers.




This rare, and outstanding tomato yields 3-4″ slightly flattened dark-red (mahogany-colored) slightly maroon, beefsteak tomatoes with deep green shoulders. Green gel around seeds. Fantastic, intense, slightly salty taste (which is great for those not wanting to add salt to their tomatoes).

An early,  dependable and prolific  tomato in the garden.


It is indeterminate, which means it will need a support. Heavy bearer of large fruits.

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Last week all my tomato plants were in quarantine for possible fungal diseases after all the rain. However, the following heirlooms will be available in limited quantities tomorrow:

Great White, Cherokee Purple, Wapsipinicon Peach, and Ildi- not an heirloom but a brand new yellow plum that bears literally hundreds of fruits. Also still some Black Krim and Green Zebra… In other words- a rainbow feast of every colour tomato except red! Wait, there are a few plants of Montserrat, a Spanish tomato that was an unknown regional treasure until it was put on the map by the famous chef Ferran Adria. My seeds came from Spain years ago when my artist friend Hannetjie de Clercq wanted to bring me something special from her trip to Spain and this was recommended by the locals, along with some seed of psychedelic purple carrots! Here is a link to a description and photo’s:


Montserrat grows well in hot summers, and the large hollow fruits have an old-fashioned thin skin and a mild sweet taste.

As for the others, here are some photo’s to whet your appetite:

Cherokee Purple

Transparent Tomato

Wapsipinicon Peach

Great White

Ildi Tomato

All plants have been growing like mad after the rain and there will be some herbs and other seedlings available. If your rocket has lived up to its name and bolted, I recommend the yellow-flowered wild rocket, Diplotaxis Tenuifolia. It will supply you with small tasty leaves all summer without bitterness setting in. Flowering stems can be cut back and the basal rosette will keep on sprouting new stalks. Ordinary rocket should only be sown when the days shorten again.

Wild Rocket

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I felt a small pang selling my last potted Green Zebra seedling at the market today. However my one transplant in the garden is already outgrowing the other varieties that were planted at the same time, and making interesting semi-double flowers. Its growth has been so impressive, not to mention the write-ups about its taste, and lastly the intriguing colouring that I am going to sow my remaining seeds at once and share them. An extremely vigorous plant bearing clusters of 5cm  tomatoes in stripey green ripening to a yellowish green. The emerald coloured flesh is very tasty and this tomato often wins taste tests for its mild yet tangy flavour.green zebra

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