Thursday, 4 June 2015

January 2015 - Our inherited (not heirloom) tomatoes get sun scalded

Save the tomatoes!

So if you say that a sun burnt person is 'as red as a tomato', what do you say about a sun burnt tomato? 

I have two answers: 
  1. Not all tomatoes are red - you get yellow ones and pink ones and striped ones and black ones as well as red ones... mutter mutter erythro-normative mumble mutter 
  2. But for all of them, no matter what their colour, the proper term for sun burnt tomatoes is 'sun-scalded'.

I figured that out this month when I tried to ask Google why my tomatoes were getting little soft spots... Along the way I also discovered how many things can actually go wrong with a tomato and that nearly put me off altogether! 

In case you are being very observant and you're wondering how I have tomatoes after only being in our new house for just over a month, our delightful predecessors planted some tomato plants before they left - which in my eyes has almost redeemed their various other quirky DIY efforts. 

I'm really grateful that they did otherwise I'd have very little to show for January! We also seem to move between August and December - so we miss have missed the spring planting a number of years in a row - but now that we have our own place *happy dance* - we ain't going nowhere! Now to just get everything ready for August...

Back to January... So in the busy-ness of the festive season, the tomatoes didn't get any support and just started spreading across the ground, as tomatoes do. I looked under a mass of tomato leaves one day and found this:

So being the conscientious tomato gardener that I am, I decided to hoist them (gently) onto some supports made from burglar guards we replaced in our tenant's flat.

Gold stars for recycling, except that all of a sudden, the leaves that were providing shade to the tender tomatoes suddenly weren't in the same spot anymore and my poor babies were exposed to the blazing January sun in all their unripe nakedness.

I hadn't realised this would be a problem so I was horrified when I found a little wrinkled soft spot on the 'shoulders' of many of my tomatoes. No, they weren't going soft on the bottom, that would be blossom end rot, and no, there were no worms nibbling at the skin - it was a classic case of sun-scald. I promise I'll take pics next time. 

And so another set of burglar guards was enlisted to support some shadecloth to protect my traumatised tomatoes. (Excuse the unmowed lawn in the image below.) The plant on the left of the image below bore yellow tomatoes (on purpose) and the one on the right bore red tomatoes. The sunscalded individuals survived (mostly) - we just cut off the sun scalded bits - and those that were beyond the point of no return were thrown back into the soil to give some nutrients back to their peers. 

I must admit that despite these hiccups, the tomato plants are bearing beautifully and I feel it is quite an auspicious beginning to our garden that I get to reap where I didn't sow. 

One thing we did manage to bring back from our old garden was these little violas which my girls grew from seed in a little window box planter. They love the bright colours and are delighted that they even get to eat them. Every visitor gets directed to the 'eating flowers' for a taste. (In case anyone is having heart failure - they have been taught that they can only eat plants that I show them are edible.)

On that cheery note - subscribe via one of the subscription links to keep up to date with our adventures in aquaponics and our various explorations and excavations!

PS Erythro-normative is a word I made up to describe how red (erythro-) tomatoes are seen as 'normal' and others are abnormal. If I ask you to draw a tomato, most of you would draw a red tomato. As a society we need to acknowledge that tomatoes come in many colours, and every colour is valuable and has its own unique flavour to add the the tomato universe - and I dream of a world where tomatoes will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their fleshy bellies.


  1. Amen Sista! When I tell people I am trying to grow black tomatoes they look at me like I am nuts.

    1. Google 'Indigo Rose' tomatoes - I can't find any seed sellers in SA with stock - but I can't wait! Truly black tomatoes!