Forget your 5 a day, how about eating dozens of tomatoes in a few hours? This sight greeted me at Thompson & Morgan's (T&M) trials ground on Tuesday, ready for 15 or so of us to sample these tomatoes. At the front you can see 8 'traditional' varieties ready for our assessment, with bowls of 9 each of 'coloured' and 'cherry' tomatoes lined up for later.
As with wine tasting, the bottles of water and crackers you can see were much needed accessories to stop our palates becoming jaded, though thankfully we were allowed to swallow our efforts rather than using a spittoon.
Much chewing and thought ensued, with us assessing each variety for its appearance, skin thickness, initial taste, juiciness and flavour. I ignored a plea from a fellow assessor for us all to add salt to our tomatoes; I haven't cooked with salt for decades, so I knew his assertion it improves the flavour wouldn't apply to me.
At the end of each round we had to announce our own winner and loser in each category . We turned out to be a fickle bunch, with one person's favourite quite often despised by their neighbour. It's all a matter of taste!
With our assessments totted up, the overall winners and losers were announced, and the names of the tomatoes revealed. Here a little impishness crept in, as T&M's vegetable expert, Colin Randall confessed some supermarket purchases were sprinkled in to see what we made of them. Luckily none of these came out as a winner.
|T&M's Colin Randall treads carefully in the outdoor trials plot after Monday's deluge of rain|
In between each round of sampling, we were taken around the outdoor and indoor trials areas. Outdoors there's a major blight trial taking place, both as part of a Europe-wide initiative and in T&M's own work with bringing new varieties to market. Other trials included looking at fertiliser treatments and grafted plants.
Tomato flavour, particularly sweetness is one of the key criteria for a successful new introduction, so it was interesting to see the almost instant assessment provided by the pictured Brix Refractometer. Brix is a measurement of sweetness of solutions and is used for a variety of vegetables and fruit. A tomato with a score of 10 or more is considered sweet. It was interesting to see variations in sweetness were found in the same variety grown under different fertiliser regimes.
We were invited to snack along the rows of tomatoes, and I confess that once I'd popped a cherry tomato or two, I simply couldn't stop. I must have eaten around 100 tomatoes of various sizes, shapes and colour on the day.
Our assessment duties over, we were invited to Jimmy's Farm for a spot of lunch and to have a look at T&M's new garden there. Unfortunately the day's fine weather turned to rain soon after we arrived, so that part of the visit was cut short. Luckily, I was there a couple of weeks ago for a bloggers' get together, so here's a few photos of what caught my eye from a sunnier time. Click to enlarge for a better view.
Several of the other attendees have blogged about their visit already, so I'll leave the story of that day in their capable hands:
- The Thompson & Morgan Open Garden - Alison
- Side Order of Begonia With That Madam? - Jane
- Thompson and Morgan Press Day 2015 - Katy
- Last Week I Visited Jimmy's Farm - Sara
- New on the Menu for Bees for 2016 - Sarah
Let me know if I've left anyone out. My thanks to everyone at T&M for 2 fun-filled and educational days.