Heritage Tomato Selector

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Free Tomato Seeds This Week If You’d Like to Join Our Tomato Trial: Kay Closes the Loop – Part Twelve

Wow, I’m loving the Spring, I feel as though I’ve been saying “look at everything bursting” for a while now, but it literally is all bursting here. There’s a Maakia amurensis here right outside the house truck window, the buds get huge before they burst and suddenly they have 6 inches of beautiful silvery leaf growth, and the mulberries burst then send out their fruit before you know it. Elanor and I have been walking around checking out all the mulberries, they all have some differences in their crops we can see and we have found one that has very long pendulous fruit so we’re excited to taste that.

There is a green mantle over the grass layer now, somehow the energy that goes down into the earth over winter lifts again slowly but very powerfully in Spring… and the layer including the top soil right up to the tops of the tallest trees holds the layer of life that we live in and do our best to interact with. What a joy that is.

This week it’s tomato growing ideas.

I’ve given you mine in Blog 7 and since I designed that process I have been talking with Grant (my mentor at Environmental Fertilsers) many times, and he has given me a recipe based on his experience and that of the guys at International Ag Labs in the USA who are also doing this kind of stuff!

This recipe looks pretty far out…. Only for the brave and strong! I’m going to plant a few tomatoes like this as well and keep careful results.

Over in the USA they are trying to define a nutrient dense tomato. They say that if they are grown like this they grow much larger plants and crop much more heavily and the fruit tastes unbelievable and has a very high BRIX. If any of you out there are keen to join our trial then please register with us we’ll send you a free packet of Watermouth Tomato seed but you will need your own refractometer. We’ll all use the same seed this year for a start. You could follow any of the three methods we are using to join us on this trial.

That means here at Koanga we will have our tomatoes growing under 3 different recipes, these will be:

  1. At my place using no commercial products
  2. Using Grant’s recipe
  3. Koanga’s version of Grant’s recipe that feels possible for us to do in a garden where the water table is high and we could not go down 1m

All of these methods will be compared along with your results at home and we will publish that next winter. In the mean time we will hold a special Tomato/Potato Guided Tour in February and Grant and Kay will be here to talk about growing nutrient dense tomatoes and potatoes.

Once you have a good look at Grants’ tomato recipe, you’ll see that it requires digging a small hole or trench if you have more than 1 plant like this. Quite a job. There is a lot of evidence to show that trees grown on holes like this grow to the size of a usual 8 year old tree in 2 years and outperform all others in terms of health and crop. For me the main issue about growing tomatoes like this is that they will also grow very very large and we’ll have to plant them much further apart as well as have a strong structure to grow them on . I know for many people that is to hard, so I’m trying to find some ways that could be made easier. The best idea we have come up with so far is top have a tube of netting for them to grow up the middle of and then, let several of the first laterals can be left on and tied vertically up the outside of the cylinder, so you have a lot more vine to hold tomatoes. The cylinder would have to be firmly anchored to the ground as it will act as a sail once covered in tomato leaves.

This recipe brings up as many questions as it does answers but I think we will learn heaps and if we can use these tomato holes and structures year after year it may not be be so much more work after all!

I’m going to have to make sure I collect a lot of leaves next autumn to have enough leaf mould to do this and use for many other things, next season like mulching perennial beds and putting in potato trenches. I decided not to buy in any more fertiliser this year after I’d lost my chance to collect the leaves too late. I think everybody at Kotare Village will be heading for the leaves under the Tilia (Linden tree) as we now know they have ideal leaves for ideal fertiliser, both calcium and phosphate bio accumulator.


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Kay’s Homemade Tomato Fertiliser Recipe

Based on my understanding that my soil is low in magnesium compared to calcium and they both need to be raised, and that tomatoes need a lot of both but balanced, as well as a lot of phosphate. We have high levels of potash and need more phosphate. The more microbes the better and we need nitrate nitrogen to get growth and ammonium nitrogen to encourage fruit set and filling.

  1. Apply 1 x 20lt bucket of compost per sqm of garden bed, along with 10 litres of urine (nitrate and ammonium nitrogen) charged biochar. U-bar all of this into the soil down to full depth of U Bar.
  2. Dig a large hole for each tomato plant 30cm diameter and 20cm deep. (4 plants per sqm) In the bottom of each hole place 1 cup of dried toasted crushed egg shells some brown and rest the white for a calcium phosphate boost with our Homemade CalPhos and 1 cup of urine soaked biochar .. mix these into soil around bottom of hole.
  3. Plant tomato plant, so that 2/3’s of its 30cm stem is in the hole covered with soil.
  4. Drench soil with 1 cup Kay’s Liquid Fertiliser (micronutrient boost with calcium and balanced major minerals, microbe food) mixed with 1 cup of Homemade Fish Fertiliser Recipe, and 1 Tbspn molasses, added to 9 litres of water (no chlorine)
  5. Install a dripper irrigation system
  6. Mulch heavily with a thick layer of fresh alfalfa and comfrey leaves (calcium magnesium potash and phosphate) on half the bed and organic high brix cow manure (humus building complexes and nitrate and ammonium nitrogen, plus balanced calcium magnesium and phosphate) on the other half.
  7. From then on I’m going to use my refractometer to test foliar applications and will apply weekly foliar feeds according to what my refractometer says. I’m going to try raw milk, sea salt, Epsom salts (in case I need more magnesium to balance with the calcium), CalPhos, my own liquid foliar, as well as foliar fish. I’ll test the brix of each end of the bed each week, then test various foliar possibilities, and decide what to use and keep in touch. I’m in the process of making all of these liquid fertilisers and will show you these processes and the results of the tests I have made on them by Bioservices as they come to hand.



Growing Tomatoes



An excerpt taken from the updated Koanga Garden Guide.


Tomatoes are always a challenge if you want to do it organically, especially if you want to do it without copper sprays.  This is the program we’ve developed over the years not using copper (copper kills the microbes on the leaves of the tomatoes .. and in the soil…. so they become even more susceptible to disease than they were before the spray went on).

  • Make sure you take special care of your comfrey and or alfalafa patch, in Autumn and Spring so you have strong plants to harvest leaves from throughout the growing season for mulch and liquid fertilser

  • Plant tomato seed 4 -8 weeks before you plan on planting your tomatoes out. Follow our instructions within the Koanga Garden Guide for planting seed and be sure to innoculate your trays with Koanga Seedling Innoculant. The microbes at this stage are key to super healthy plants later. Do not use a seed raising mix containg a fungicide. Check out carefully the ideas about pricking out twice into larger trays or pots so you can grow bigger plants ready to plant out after your last frost - this affects when you plant the seed.

  • Prick out when first leaves appear follow instructions carefully (from within the Koanga Garden Guide) prick out into trays or pots  7-9cm deep, at 2.5 cm spacings.

  • Prepare beds by clearing out compost crops, then aerate your bed. We use a U-Bar as described within the Koanga Garden Guide. We then incorporate 1-3 cm of compost into the top 10 cm Unless you have exceptional soil, you’ll find it makes a huge difference to incorporate 400 gms of EF:Nature’s Garden into the soil with the compost (detailed fertiliser protocols within the Koanga Garden Guide).

  • Put the tomato poles firmly into the beds (we use a ‘bar’) at 50cm diagonal spacings, and mulch the beds. At this time of the year you should be able to use wilted comfrey and or alfalafa. These crops will compost fast into the soil, and the mulch can be topped up monthly to feed the tomatoes during the season.

  • Plant out 3-7 weeks later, close to the tomato poles which should be already in the ground, into holes made in the mulch and soil with a little EF:Nature’s Garden in the bottom of the hole with a pinch of Koanga Seedling Inoculant (if your seedlings do not already have it on their roots from the seedling trays) Water in the tomato plants with EF:FishPlus. This will activate the microbes and really get things humming.

Note: As described on within the Koanga Garden Guide, you could keep your tomato plants in pots for a further 4 weeks maximum if you repot them after 4 weeks into deeper flats or individual pots of 20 cm diameter. For those of us in short growing seasons this is a must!


Weekly Program after planting out

Many people ask me why we have to delateral our tomatoes, they obviously were not created with a delateraler in place, so why now? This is a really valid question that I have asked myself many times I believe it is that tomatoes evolved in a low humidity climate (highland central America) In places around the world like Australia, California and even Seed Savers in Iowa. These all have low humidity climates too and they grow them without the need to delateral, I have seen that many times, and there is research showing that delateraling lessens the crop, which also comes later. However - if you try to grow them without delateraling here, you will probably find as I did, that you get blight really badly and you lose the whole plant, and do not get a crop at all. Basically tomatoes are not suited to our climate. If we want to have them as part of our diet we have to adapt, as we have - and it works well enough to be able to take huge crops off the plants and roast and bottle and dry, and make sauce and soup and eat the delicious  products all year round!! So take a deep breath and

  • Delateral and tie up only on a sunny, windy, dry day, never a humid, still or wet day, once a week like clock work!

  • Delateral by bending out the very small laterals with clean fingers, this leaves far less chance for disease to enter the plant than if you’re having to break or cut large laterals.. the dry windy day will mean those cuts heal fast.

* ensure your plants receive even regular watering on the soil not the plant leaves, remember tomatoes come from an arid climate, they do not like water on their leaves.

  • Once the first tomatoes begin sizing up, twice monthly soil drench with EF:CalPhos, this will make a big difference to your plant health, and eventual crop. Blossom end rot is a function of calcium deficiency and tomatoes in particular need lots of calcium and phosphate. If your soil is low, or out of balance then put it on.

If you’re having trouble with shield bugs then you don’t have enough moisture in the soil to keep your plants happy which also creates mineral deficiencies. 

  • Once tomatoes begin ripening, we cut any black diseased looking leaves away from under the bunch of tomatoes currently being picked, with secateurs, sterilised in meths between each plant!


Photo credits - Vitor Crispim, Regeneration Productions and Gail Aiken, Koanga Institute



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Kay’s Eggplant, Oil, Tomato Pickle Recipe

20.02.08 009

We can speak from vast experience that this is AMAZING!!! She makes it then just add’s it to her fresh baked beans and BAM! Amazingness! It’s also perfect with scrambled eggs for a quick and easy lunch!

Eggplant pepper tomato oil pickle

2kgs eggplants, any kind
1kg onions, any kind
1 kg peppers (any kind, if they are hot the sauce will be hot)
2 kgs fresh tomatoes
2 bulbs of fresh garlic
unrefined seasalt to taste
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 Tbsp black mustard seeds
1 Tbsp turmeric powder
1/2 litre olive oil

Char eggplants, peppers, onions on the BBQ (ours is a rocket stove BBQ)until soft. Remove and when cool peel off charred skins. Chop into chunks, then ¼ tomatoes, removing hard cores. Finely chop garlic.

Add oil to wok, the garlic and soften, then add cumin, and mustard seeds, cook 2 minutes then then add all ingredients except tumeric, and gently simmer until all the runny liquid is gone and it is a thick consistency.. add turmeric stir while gently cooking 5 more minutes. .

Pour into small hot jars with hot lids ready and seal.



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2014 Tomato Growout

Last season our garden crew grew out 17 of our most popular tomatoes for seed. (This is by no means all of the most popular, we just didn’t need to grow out all of them for seed last season). When I say ‘most popular’, I really mean the cultivars that stand out to us from our huge collection, the best of the best!. We have been growing out our NZ heritage tomato collection every year for 30 years now, not all of them every year but all of them many times.

To import or not?

Initially I was very tempted to import seed from all the sexy tomato catalogues and companies around the world, there are amazing looking variations on the tomato theme around! About 20 years ago after having been spending time each summer over at Heronswood in Melbourne with David Cavagnaro who was then working with Seed Saver’s in the USA, I decided to bring all of their best cultivars here and trial them to see what I thought of them.

New Zealand’s Climate

The big thing that came from that trial was that none of them performed anywhere near as well as our own heritage cultivars. We have a very unique climate here in NZ. It is far more humid than most other places they are grown, we have a maritime humid climate, and tomatoes come from places with a humidity of around 10%. It become very that year that those that have been in this land for 100 years or more are simply better adapted to this climate.

NZ vs. the world

A couple of years after that trial the NZ Herald ran a large article complaining about how bad heritage tomatoes were….. they had been asking people what they thought of heritage tomatoes. The feed back they were getting was that they were very, very prone to blight and were not standing up well. They were not asking where their heritage tomato seed was coming from. If they had, they would have discovered that those people they had asked were buying their seed from companies selling heritage tomato seed from overseas mainly California and Italy.

If they had asked us we would have been able to explain why they got such bad results. (They are somebody else’s heritage tomatoes, they are not adapted to a climate with around 80% humidity, California having 10 % humidity year round!) They did ask us later and we showed them our tomatoes and they ran a story on them which was great.

New Zealand heritage tomatoes

Our own tomatoes have had a process of around 100- 150 years of adaption to our own soils and climate and have been selected to do well in these conditions! It makes a big difference. Nothing has changed… this season we added a new tomato to our range for trial, the tomato that is being touted as the most nutritious tomato these days… Earl of Edgecombe, a yellow tomato. It performed so badly that it basically produced almost nothing compared to all of the others , all NZ heritage lines.

There is no use being the most nutritious tomato if it s not adapted to NZ conditions. We had psyllid in our tomatoes last season, and so did not harvest as heavy a crop as we should have, however we learnt a lot about which cultivars are the most resistant to them , there were big differences between them in terms of being able to handle a psyllid infestation.

The winning tomatoes

The outstanding tomato was Oxheart, it cropped the heaviest, and we love that tomato anyway great for every thing…. It is an old Dalmatian gumdigger introduction to NZ in around 1880!










We had 5 tomatoes vying for second place in terms of production and resistance to psylllid:

Burbank (a really red reliable beefsteak by well known USA psychic plant breeder of the 19th tomato)

Hawkes Bay Yellow (our best cropping best tasting yellow, flattish, beefsteak type)

hawkes bay yellow
Hawkes Bay Yellow













Scotland Yellow while not a beefsteak did very well and is super hardy in the South Island, good flavour when fully ripe goes orange when really ripe,

Wonder was also in the top producing range and that is our earliest fruiting tomato (apart from Henry’s Dwarf Bush Cherry which we grow under cloches and in containers for very early fruiting).


Garden Peach, is a super productive tomato that has a peach like look about it and some people love it, others don’t. It is a super healthy plant with high production. And some of our best were not in that growout eg Watermouth, J Walsh, Russian Red, Tommy Toe, Kings Gold, Calrton Victory and Black Roma.

Check them out on the website or our catalogue.


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Tomato, spinach, panir casserole

Recipe from Change of Heart by Kay Baxter and Bob Corker

Tomato Ponsonby RedYou can substitute any of the summer greens for spinach in this quick and easy dish.

8 heritage tomatoes – quartered and cored

2 cups cooked spinach

1 cup panir 1cm cubed* see recipe below

1 Tbsp lard, coconut or olive oil

sea salt and cracked pepper to taste

1 cup posole (ground) or breadcrumbs* see below

1/2 cup grated butter

Place tomatoes, spinach, panir, seasoning and oil into a bowl and mix well.Place into a baking dish and cover either with breadcrumbs or ground posole, mix well with the grated butter. Bake at 180degC for about 30 minutes or until brown on top.

*Posole – which you can buy in some supermarkets as Masa flour

Pasole is a traditional way of eating corn where the dried corn is processed with either wood or shell as to increase its nutritional value (up to 60 times more available calcium hydroxide. It’s best made in large batches as it is quite a process. If you have experience of making posole, please get in touch [email protected]
To begin soak six cups of dried corn overnight in water. Pour off the water and put in a pot with 2 cups of bone/shell ash-water, and cover with extra water. Make sure the corn remains covered throughout the cooking process. Simmer for one hour or longer, until the skin can be rubbed off the kernels.
Remove from heat and drain. Place in a colander and rub under running water until you have removed as many of the skins as possible. Then put everything into a bowl or bucket and float off the skins.
Return to the pot and cover with water. Continue cooking for another hour and repeat the whole de-skinning process until the corn kernels are white, fluffy and skinless. They are now ready to be ground for tortillas, added to soup, or dried.


3 litres milk

1/4 cup lemon juice or vinegar

1 colander

1 cloth (30x30cm)

Bring your milk to the boil. Slowly add just enough apple cider vinegar or lemon juice to curdle the milk. (I prefer the taste of lemon juice in panir, but either is good).
Next turn heat off and gently stir as little as possible with a wooden spoon until you have a clear yellow why and a mass of panir. If you do not have clear yellow why, add a little more vinegar or lemon juice. Leave the curds in a solid mass, do not break up by stirring.
When you are happy your curds and whey have separated as much as possible, put a cloth inside a colander in the kitchen sink and ladle in the curds. Hang your curd-filled cloth up on the kitchen hook and leave to drain. this will happen very fast and not a lot of whey will come out.
Leave the curds to cool, than remove from cloth and use or freeze for later.
I usually cube the panir and to add to soups or fry and add to veggie dishes.
Because the whey has been boiled and will not contain the life raw whey contains, (although it still has many nutrients), I prefer to feed it to the animals rather than use it in the kitchen, but it can add excellent flavour to soups and stews in place of stock.