When I was a teenager growing up in Vietnam, I watched this Korean soap opera. I can’t remember the name or much of the plot now, but it’s probably a tragic love story. It almost always was with Korean soaps of the 90s. They are still very popular in Vietnam, but I have lost touch with home television, so I don’t know if the topic has widened.
Anyway, Korean producers have the knack of romanticising small little thing, and in that series, it was a tomato plant. For years, I really wanted to grow tomatoes.
As I became older and moved away, I kind of forgot about the idea until one day. I was given a little box at the supermarket counter. In the Netherlands, when spring comes, supermarkets like AH give out boxes with seeds in some compost. You might not know this but the Netherlands is really into growing food. This little tiny country is feeding the world.
When I took the tomato box home that day, I thought of a fun idea. I brought it to work the next morning and started a tomato pot on my desk. It’s a shame to admit that I neglected it. No, I didn’t come into work at the weekend to water the tomatoes. Even on work days, I didn’t always spare much attention to the plants. Somehow, the pot kept going for a couple of months.
That summer, I left the office. The plants went home with me and were repotted into container three times the size. As the branches grew out, I used a broken chair to support the skinny arms.
To my amazement, I had some cherry tomatoes later that year. There weren’t many fruits, but considering the lack of care, I was more than happy to see any at all. I have grown more cherry tomatoes with better results ever since.
Care for Cherry Tomatoes
Do it early in spring if you live somewhere that doesn’t get much sunlight, like the North. This year, I sowed my first seeds in early April, and I had the first fruits in early August. Some of my fruits didn’t become ripe by late September, and with much less sunlight, they never did. Next year, I plan to start in March, maybe sowing indoor first to give them a head start.
If you live in the sunny south, it’s a different story. My Dad even sows seeds in August and still have fruits before the dark days come.
The more sunlight the plants have, the sweeter the fruits are. That means putting tomato plants in the spot with the most sunlight for the longest time in the day. That also mean trimming off leaves that cover young fruits.
Give tomatoes plenty of water. It makes sense as the fruits are full of water, right? If you see nasty cracks on the beautiful shiny round surface, it indicates that you didn’t water your plants enough.
Support your plants when they grow and especially when it’s fruiting. There are many ways of designing your supporting system, depending on the space you have. If your balcony doesn’t have a lot of sunlight, a fan-training trellis is a good option. It sounds intimidating, but it basically means splaying all the branches evenly out against the wall so the sun can easily reach and ripen the fruits.
I didn’t do this but here’s a photo I found on Pinterest:
This year, I opted for a dwarf tomatoes and didn’t have to prop them up, which made life quite a bit easier. It’s hard to see how tall these plants were but they were about 30cm and hardly needed any support despite being super laden with fruits.
Use of Cherry Tomatoes
Tomatoes are fruits, not vegetables. So I like to eat the little ones like fruits, raw and fresh. One of my favourite salads is made with cherry tomatoes, cucumber and red onion in lime and fish sauce. If not eaten raw, I save my precious home-grown for this salad only.
Tomatoes are versatile, though. You can do many things with them from pickling whole or sun-dried to making a sauce.
And a trivial thing
Pomodoro is Italian for tomato. It’s also the name of time management method that I use every day, twelve months a year, unlike the fresh tomatoes which are only available in my garden for a couple of months in the summer.