The number of different varieties of tomato available in the US is enormous. Just one supplier, the Tomato Growers Supply Company lists nearly 300 varieties (as well as over 150 peppers and nearly 30 aubergines (egg plants) – and they will send seed to Britain, in fact they’ll send it anywhere. So this is a great opportunity for British tomato lovers to try something completely different. American gardeners will find some tasty surprises too.
Of course, some of the varieties they list are available from the big British seed companies and some from specialists like Simpsons Seeds (who do not send seeds to North America). But the range of American heirlooms available from the Tomato Growers Supply Company is impressive, and includes ‘Lillian’s Yellow Heirloom’ (“one of the finest tasting yellow heirlooms”), ‘Mexico’ (“huge dark pink fruit with outstanding taste… brought into the U.S. by a Mexican family”) and the more modern ‘Copia’ (“a stunning combination of fine-lined golden yellow and red stripes… the real treat comes when you cut them open. Their gold flesh is streaked with red and is very juicy, flavorful, and sweet.”
You get the picture, a vast variety of intriguing new tomatoes to try.
One really useful feature of the Tomato Growers Supply Company listings is that each variety is rated as early, midseason or late and they give the actual number of days after planting that you can expect your first ripe fruit: around 60 days for the earlies, to about 90 days for lates. British seed suppliers don’t seem to do this.
Hardly anyone grows tomatoes in greenhouses in North America, so these are all outdoor timings. In areas of Britain where the first frosts come late you can probably grow them all; in chillier areas, you might want to forget the late varieties.
The Tomato Growers Supply Company will charge British customers a flat rate of just $12.00 (c£7.50) per shipment ($5.25 for North American customers). You can check out the terms here.
For the benefit of North American readers, sweet peas are the opposite. British suppliers list a large range of varieties, and some will send seed to North America. I’ll be looking at transatlantic sweet pea opportunities for North American readers soon.