Q&A with Perino Tomato Farmer
Thanks to the children of some of the wonderful Foundation team for supplying the questions for us to ask Perino tomato farmers in Guyra, northern New South Wales. Did you know tomato plants can grow up to 18 metres long and produce 6.5 to 20kg of fruit depending on the variety. Perino’s tomatoes produce more than 145 million tomatoes per year in their glasshouses. Placed side by side this fruit would reach from Sydney to Perth and back as the crow flies. Read on to find out more fun facts about the fruit you wouldn’t usually find in a fruit salad.
When do the tomatoes grow?
Our tomatoes grow all year round. The glasshouse and the climate control system allow us to provide the ideal conditions they need to grow to their optimal potential.
What animals eat the tomatoes?
Various insects and caterpillars love to munch on the plants and fruits if given their choice. Examples for these are White Fly, Thrips and caterpillars of different moths’ species.
Who buys your tomatoes?
Anyone that appreciates the real taste of healthy, yummy and more sustainable grown produce.
Do they grow best in a particular season?
We grow our tomatoes all year round, but they usually grow faster and bigger in summer when the days are longer and there is more sunlight during the days.
How long does it take them to grow?
From seed to flowering- around 50 days, another 6 weeks to grow and ripen the first tomatoes and then we harvest a truss every week for the rest of the year.
How do they grow without soil?
The material we grow in is called Rockwool looks and feels like a foam mattress. It gives the perfect environment for the plants to spread their roots and wait for water and food. We take care of that part by feeding each plant with their exact mix of water and nutrients.
How many tomatoes can you grow at once?
Our Perino plants can grow up to 200 fruits per plant at the same time. In one glasshouse we can have almost 40million tomatoes growing at the same time!!!!
Do you ever get misshapen tomatoes or are they always perfect?
Most of the time our Perino’s look like identical siblings, alike but each is slightly different. At times, if weather conditions are not just right for few weeks the tomatoes that are set then can have a funky shape- some more pointy, some oval or pear shape. They will still taste great.
Do you only sell red and yellow Perino tomatoes?
We only sell Red and Gold Perino. We have other tomatoes with all sizes, shapes and colours but they are not Perino.
Do they all grow the same size, or do you get monster ones?
Most of the times they all grow to the same shape and size. There is the occasional super-size one that may have grown out of a funny shaped flower. These can be much much bigger compared to their friends, we call them king fruits.
How tall do the tomato plants grow?
Did you know that the tomato plant can grow up to 30cm EVERY WEEK! By the end of the year the stems of some varieties can reach 18m long!
How long do the tomatoes last once harvested?
Perino are extra special for their ability to taste great and last much longer than any other tomatoes. If you treat them right, Perino can stay fresh, crunchy and yummy even 3 weeks after they have been harvested.
What do you like to eat with Perino tomatoes?
I just love munching on them on their own. My kids like to eat Perino instead of lollies as a snack for crunch and sip at school. I also like cutting them in half and adding to fresh salads because of their flavour.
What temperature does the hothouse have to be?
We keep the glasshouse at a temperature range of 15-28 degrees. We change the temperatures during the day depending on light conditions and the needs of the plants. Hotter than that it gets uncomfortable for the plants and people in the glasshouse.
What do you do daily to maintain a good crop?
There is a long list of tasks we need to do on daily bases to maintain our crops. In short, every plant is actually hand grown and individually taken care of. We have people that train the plants on their strings, remove side shoots to ensure they grow well. Others inspect the plants from the bottom, remove old leaves and pick the fruits. We water daily using an advanced irrigation system that gives up to 30 shots of irrigation every day to make sure the plants are well hydrated and fed. Then, a team of Horticulturists and plants specialists tour the glass house every day to make sure the crop is looking good and no pests and disease are coming in and causing damage.
What’s your favourite recipe using Perino tomatoes?
My ultimate Perino recipe is Perino pie-shortcrust pastry case filled with a scrumptious mix of Perino, pine nuts, Feta cheese (or any other with it), egg wash and sesame seeds on top and baked till golden brown.
How long did it take to develop such a sweet tomato?
Tomato varieties can be bred for years before released to growers, they are the result of countless trials and errors of mixing together different kind of tomatoes varieties until the full range of attributes are locked in. The next challenge is learning how to grow them correctly making the full genetic potential express itself in the final product.
We would also like to thank Perino Tomatoes and Coles for supporting us with five cents from every punnet sold (up to $100,000) from 20 January – 16 February 2021.
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