Back in March I received a surprise package. Dobies sent samples from their new heritage vegetable range, selected by last year's winner of The Great Allotment Challenge, Rob Smith. My bounty included three plants each of Tomato Red Currant and Tomato Yellow Currant, and two Honey Boat squash plants.
To be honest, I could do with more of this sort of thing. Not that creating a lush plantation on an underspecified windowsill doesn't try the patience of family members when it comes to drawing the curtains. (And lush it was; they took off from the moment I potted them on and I potted on again before daring to put them into their final positions outside.) But it was great to have tomato plants so early as I rarely bother to sow tomatoes until April and certainly not squash, for the very reason that I don't have a greenhouse.
Hence, for me, I am now well ahead of my usual game. This, in a year when I heard the Gardeners' Question Time panel bemoaning the weather and the fact that they hadn't yet harvested tomatoes.
Hah! I preened. I've gathered at least a hundred.
Sounds good, huh? But did you note the name? Red/Yellow Currant. Somehow, I just thought these would be a whimsically named cherry. I was wrong. The names are trade-description accurate, as proven by the redcurrant which kindly agreed to model.
There's actually quite a lot to be said for them. Picking is a bit of fiddle, as their size makes them easy to drop and the languishing foliage means that 1) they don't necessarily fall through to the soil and 2) they're hard to find again. Soup, sauce and stuffing are obviously out, but I'm finding it rather seductive to just toss a handful onto a salad without cutting and deseeding. Ditto risottos.
Taste-wise they're lovely warm from the vine, with a good zing to balance the sweetness, their size providing a pop of flavour on the tongue. Out of the fridge? Still zingy, not quite so flavoursome, but that's tomatoes in general.
I seem to be growing from one extreme to the other. Last year was an experiment with Gigantomo, and generally they were more useful. It's a question of balance. Six plants of the two Currants means that I don't have room for many other varieties. One plant wouldn't be enough, I reckon, if you wanted a good showing in salad on a regular basis. But if you have room for two or three, depending on your desire to consume, that would probably be enough to justify them as a tasty, no-preparation addition to your harvest.
The Currants are new and exclusive to Dobie's but, given the laissez-faire approach to naming veg varieties, I wouldn't be surprised if the red one were an extremely close relative of Victoriana's Sweet Pea Currant tomato. Their website gives a description which pretty much hits the spot.
We cannot pretend that this is a tidy variety to grow; you are best to just contain the growth within a circle of strings rather than try to formally train and thin.
There was certainly something about my plants which stopped me from growing as a cordon. I just let them get on with it. Branches tend to be long and it's most definitely a sprawler. However, Victoriana does add that, if you do grow as a cordon, you'll have tomatoes more the size of a cherry variety, which might appeal more to some.
Meanwhile Rob Smith, who has, he says, a passion for heritage veg with their overtones of childhood tastes and helping at his grandfather's allotment, has chosen some other tempting varieties for his range from Dobie's.
I fear I won't be discovering the joys of Honey Boat, though. One plant has romped away with plenty of female flowers but the other (entirely my own fault) is stunted through neglect and only just beginning to flower. On the plant that's thriving, the fruits are withering away. I'll try hand pollination to see if that helps, and perhaps I might get some sort of harvest by the end of the year, but I'm kicking myself for not doing this sooner. as I was really looking forward to trying a squash that promises to be "easier to grow, and sweeter than a butternut squash." Rob adds:
It’s more productive too... The fruits are super sweet with firm, deep orange flesh, the ideal size to serve 2 people. It’s also got its own built-in best before date, as the green stripes will disappear as the squash ages, so you’ll always know which to eat first.
Well, I can certainly confirm there are loads of fruit (all shrivelling). Actually, to add insult to injury, I won't be getting any other squash either. The Turks Turban I bought in to make up for my inadequacies was razed to soil level by voracious molluscs.
Ah, well, there's always next year...