As a young child I hated tomatoes. In the early 80’s tomatoes in the UK were horrible things, flavourless and often underripe to stop them being damaged in transit. Gradually people started asking why the tomatoes eaten on holiday in Europe were just so much better than you could get here and things started to change. Now you can buy vine ripened tomatoes and many different varieties, including colour and those grown especially for flavour. Now, whilst not being a tomato addict I do seem to be a bit of a collector of unusual tomatoes.
Sungold is orange, green zebra green and stripy, dancing with Smurfs is black and now I can add yellow Ildi. I have seen some mixed reviews of Ildi. What is undisputed is the size of each truss is enormous and they just keep coming. The fruit is a baby plum, the perfect cocktail size. Some have found them slightly mealy which can be a problem with plum tomatoes most of which were bred for cooking but I’ve found that if you harvest them when slightly under or just ripe they have a zingy bite, which if you partner with the very sweet Sungold produces an almost lemon sherbet effect.
In the Kitchen
Yield and plant health
Ildi holds an RHS award of garden merit at the time of writing. You will get around 3-4 truss per plant and reputably up to 50 tomatoes per truss. It is slightly later than some other cherries but towards the end of the season you can cut the whole truss off to ripen indoors with good results. Idli does best in the the greenhouse, rather than outdoors. It is a cordon tomato so needs to be supported and the side shoots pinched out for best results.
Sow tomato seeds from January (for greenhouse/conservatory tomatoes) to April (outdoor tomatoes) and keep at a temperature of 18 a 20 degrees c. Germination should take 7 to 14 days.
I sow 6 seeds in a small seed tray, making sure there is at least an inch between seeds. I then cover with half a centimetre of vermiculite, water and place in a heated propagator in a location that receives plenty of light.
Once your tomatoes sprout the challenge is to give them sufficient light to stop them getting leggy. A sunny window ledge in a cool room, a heated conservatory or greenhouse kept above 12 degrees c are ideal. You will need to turn tomatoes grown on a window ledge often as they will grow towards the light. You can also use LED grow lights to supplement the light they get. Gently blowing the leaves daily may also encourage them to be more stocky.
When the seedlings are large enough to handle (2-4 leaves), transplant into individual 3 inch pots. Pot on as required. Plant out, 2-3 ft apart after all risk of frost has passed.
Cordon tomato plants require support from about 4 inches. They will then need further tying in as the plant grows. Pinch out the side shoots that grow between the stem and the leaves before they reach 2cm long. Take the tops off outdoor tomatoes after two trusses have set fruit. In unheated greenhouses after 4 trusses and in heated green houses, stop in September to allow remaining fruit to ripen.
When tomatoes are young keep the soil moist but not damp. Water from the base to reduce humid you around the leaves which encourages blight. As they start to fruit you will need to keep them consistently watered, daily if necessary to prevent fruit putting sudden spurts of growth on and splitting. Remove the lower foliage as it yellows. This encourages air flow around the plant and allows more light to get to the fruit for ripening. The more light the sweeter the tomato.