Scientist Russell Sharp wants to revive a Leicestershire tomato variety - but he needs your help! The 27-year-old, who is a researcher at Lancaster Environment Centre, wants as many people as possible to start growing the fruit. Read his account of the project - and find out how you can take part.
At the start of the last century Shoults’ Tomato Farm in Blaby was famous for the quality of the tomatoes it produced. When production stopped, due to the on-set of Word War II, the variety of tomato they grew also stopped being cultivated - and with it part of Leicestershire’s heritage was lost.
|Russell with the tomatoes|
However, now with increased awareness of the need for genetic diversity in crops, and the benefits of sourcing fruit and veg from local sources, I have started a campaign to re-introduce the Blaby tomato variety back into cultivation in Leicestershire.
I obtained tomato seeds collected from the Blaby site from a European seed bank and have been growing them under glass this winter. Now with the help of like-minded people in the area I am hoping to reintroduce this ‘heirloom’ tomato variety back into cultivation in Leicestershire.
I assume it was bred so as to achieve the best results in the climatic and soil conditions of the area. However, I have no idea how the tomato prefers to grow (glasshouse or outside etc) and so the more people I can get growing it in as many different conditions around Leicestershire the better.
The tomato fruits I have harvested from the Blaby plants are large, wide and have a quirky yellow collar! In addition, they are much redder and juicier than supermarket varieties, possibly due to the supermarket tomatoes often having to be tough enough to survive their transportation all the way from Spain.
The Blaby Tomato may also have been bred to be the perfect accompaniment to other traditional Leicestershire foods such as a Stilton cheese sandwich or a Melton Mowbray pie! I now have a stock of seeds available, so if you would like to help re-establish the true taste of the county by growing some Blaby tomatoes of your own please get in touch.
To take part in the project email Russell on firstname.lastname@example.org.