Positive start for British tomato season

Growers credit favourable light levels for three-week advance in crop deliveries to supermarkets.

The season has started positively for British tomato growers, with some harvesting for supermarket customers three weeks early.

"So far, it has been quite a good year," British Tomato Growers Association technical officer Dr Phil Morley told Grower.

"Light levels are correlated to tomato growth and they have been slightly better this year, and the mild weather has meant growers haven't had to use so much heat."

He said the reversion to showery April weather over much of the country would not now hold growers back. "Skilled growers can tweak the environment under glass to suit the light levels outside," he said. "Once the season has started, yields go up quite linearly until June - after that there are more peaks and troughs."

Morley said of retailers: "They would prefer to stock British-grown tomatoes and by now there's no reason why the majority in the shops shouldn't be British-grown."

The strengthening of pound against the euro has made imports from Holland and Spain slightly cheaper, he added. "But the British product is still superior - it is picked in full colour and has spent less time in the cool chain, which has an effect on flavour."

Piccolo variety - Winning the taste test

The Piccolo variety of cherry tomato is "the best tasting tomato in the world bar none", according to Flavourfresh production manager Andy Roe.

"Last week, I tasted 250 varieties and none were as good as the Piccolo," said Roe, who has worked at the firm's glasshouses near Southport for 23 years and oversees its new variety breeding programme.

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