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Innovation Blog August - September 2013

Hello again, I'm back with the second instalment. The growing season has been in full swing for a while now and the tomatoes are bearing their delicious fruit. They certainly are a demanding crop to grow, requiring a lot of training, monitoring and attention to keep the plants in peak condition and bearing premium tasty fruit.

I can feel a long hot summer ahead of me, which will be excellent for plant growth and fruit yields, but maybe not so good for my hydration levels. As you can imagine, it gets a tad warm in a greenhouse in the height of the summer. The next few months are going to be full on tomatoes, leaving little time for anything else.

However, when you see those first fruits ripening it's exciting and you just can't beat eating them straight from the vine: sweet, succulent and tasty, it makes it all worthwhile. When the immature green fruit is swelling, it's hard to know what each variety will look and taste like, especially with 55 varieties in the greenhouse. But later on in the season, once the plants have started cropping, I enter the tomato house and I'm greeted with a Technicolor scene. Different colours and shapes everywhere, truly a feast for the eyes… and feast for my mouth with the tomatoes that aren't required for the tasting panels at Thanet Earth.

I've eaten tomatoes for most of my life, some from retailers and some that I've grown myself and on the whole, they have been lovely. However, compared to the contents of the Discovery Greenhouse, they were fairly standard tastes and colours. I really was surprised by the diversity of both shape and colour: one row being reminiscent of traffic lights, running from sweet/ripe green tomatoes into oranges and ending in a range of glossy pinks and reds. That diversity was then surpassed by the range of flavour profiles. Normally I would associate cherry tomatoes with sweetness. However, with some varieties after the initial burst of sweetness and flavour, they had a lovely savoury aftertaste. Others, such as the orange tomatoes, with their distinctive carotenoid pigments, created a distinctly different taste on the tongue.

One thing I really can vouch for is how nice my salads have been, a different burst of flavour with every bite. The array of shapes and colours make a stunning centrepiece to the dining table and have even enticed my young nephew to eat each one and then pick out his favourites. Trust me, this amounts to high praise from someone who often turns his nose up at veg and salads! So, in my book that's a win and ultimately what the Discovery Greenhouse and this tomato trial is all about: bringing new varieties, colours and flavours to the retailers and ultimately, to your plates for you and the family to enjoy.

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