Saturday, 10 September 2011

Quelle grosseur ? !

When you buy fruit and vegetables at the market in France it is normal to tell the stallholder what you want and they will choose individual fruits and vegetables for you. This is mostly to protect the produce from being roughly or repeatedly manhandled, which could lead to it being damaged and unsaleable. They will often ask when you want to eat it - Pour quand? Aujourd'hui, demain ou après-demain ? And they will ask what size you want - Quelle grosseur ? Grosse, moyenne ou petite ?

There are 4 tomatoes in this bowl, weighing 3kg in total.
When I visit my neighbour and vegetable gardening guru Edouard he asks me none of these things. He just says 'Come with me' and hands me the biggest tomatoes you've ever seen, straight off the bush. Each of these beauties weighs between 500g and a kilo. They are unfertilized, but probably watered fairly generously. He sprays them from time to time with Bordeaux mixture (copper sulphate) which leaves blues spots on their skin but protects them from fungal diseases. Since copper sulphate is rather toxic to all manner of living creatures, it's a good idea to carefully wash, or even better to skin tomatoes presented to you by your French neighbour, but nevertheless they are a welcome gift.

Earlier in the year he gave us 4 seedlings of this tomato variety and although they have grown and are producing, our tomatoes are less than half the size of Edouard's. I suppose it is that ours have had to rely on the rain and rarely get watered. He adjured me to save the seed so I could grow some of my own next year. Since they are not F1 hybrids they come true. I have no idea what the variety name is - they may well be 'Edouard's Biggies' .



  1. I took seeds from one large beef tomato left on a plant when we bought the house last October. I planted and seedlings all looked fine BUT when I planted out and they grew to produce tomatoes half produced big tomatoes and half very small cherry tomatoes. I have no idea what type they were... both tomatoes tasted fine..

  2. I tell my kids at school the apocryphal tale of the child who drank copper sulphate, thinking it was water from his bedside table.

    It really is toxic, but also stains clothing. Only last year I had a rather irate letter from a parent ....

  3. C&E: Edouard's seedlings have produced tomatoes that look exactly like his - sort of bulging all over the place, but ours are only 150 - 200g. Still good sized tomatoes, but nothing compared to his.

    Gaynor: I believe it is being banned from next year. Probably about time, as its continued use has long been one of the great criticisms of 'organic' farming.

  4. And the best you get from a British greengrocer tends to be a coy little notice over the tomatoes "Please don't squeeze me till I'm yours".

  5. In our local Morrisons supermarket, it's common to see the young and rather loutish staff slapping packs of tomatoes and other fruit and veg on top of each other and handling them very roughly indeed, including dropping a whole tray full and chucking them back on display.
    C'est la vie en Angleterre !!

  6. Susan, save us some seed please! Thanks in advance...