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I saw this article about Cornish farmer Robert Hocking of Buttervilla in the Telegraph yesterday and it reminded me to post on something.
If it’s possible to be the rock star of, erm, organic small-holders, then Robert of Buttervilla Farm might just be one. He has been mellowly championing small-scale, highest-taste farming for many years before such things became fashionable. For him it’s clearly just a way of life: makes sense, tastes good.
But since the chef from Fifteen picked up on his passion for taste (over large-scale production) at a Soil Association meeting a few years back, his microgreens and heirloom strawberries and tomatoes have been in heavy demand with the likes of Jamie, Heston et al.
I interviewed him for food magazine earlier this year and found him utterly inspiring, so I called in to see him the other day while I was staying in the Rame area. He showed me around his small farm and, clocking my curiosity, or at least my appetite for strawberries, he encouraged me to start growing some bits and bobs in my yard.
But I don’t have the patience, I mumbled. I need instant results or I’ll get frustrated. ‘That’, he said, ‘is exactly why you should do it – it’ll be good for you.’
So, he sent me off with a pot of his special ‘vintage manure’, a strawberry plant, a tomato plant and some salad leaves – and told me to get stuck in.
Weeellll, my first foray into gardening has been an emotional rollercoaster. The excitement of the first strawberries was too much (there were only three, so the eating of them was a ceremonial affair), then the thrill at the first yellow flowers appearing on the tomato plant… and THEN came the double-pronged heartbreak of slugs and weeds.
It turned out I had been tending lovingly to a bunch of poxy weeds for weeks thinking it was the first fragile shoots of parsley (sense of humour gradually returning). And I hate slugs sooo much.
But I pulled through the slug/weed crisis and it made me more determined to succeed. Rewards really do come to those who wait. So genuine thanks, Robert, for starting me off – there’s no stopping me now. And there’s clearly no stopping you.
Pics of my first shambolic kitchen garden below.