Heritage vegetable review
Douce de Picardie   Douce de Picardie tomato

Age: unknown
Background: heirloom from Picardy region of northern France
My supplier: Association Kokopelli
Pros: novel colour, plenty of fruits
Cons: flavour is a matter of taste

White tomatoes are not exactly mainstream, but there are a few of them around. They have a reputation for being slightly bland, or "mild flavoured" to quote the euphemism-du-jour. I can't give an opinion on how Douce de Picardie compares with other white tomatoes, but I wouldn't call it mild. The flavour is actually quite strong. But it's sweet and tomatoey in a way which some people will love and others may not be so wild about.

And like pretty much all white tomatoes, it's actually more of a pale yellow than white.

 
 
 
   

I don't know how old Douce de Picardie is but the plant has a pretty primitive look to it. It's very large and beefy, with thick coarse knobbly stems and big rough leaves. Not a pretty or delicate variety. It grows quite rampantly and had to be restrained from bursting through the roof of my greenhouse (it managed to work its way under a pane of glass, squished itself flat to get through, then carried on as normal the other side).

It's obvious that its preferred method of growth is to sprawl along the ground, rooting itself in the earth as it goes along. It produces sideshoots at the bottom which do exactly that. It doesn't seem to mind being trained upright in a tall cordon, but it still produces roots all along the stem. Masses of them. They just dangle there uselessly like a tangle of yesterday's spaghetti. Mind you, they are tough roots. When a leaf gets in their way they will just pierce right through it.

Photo: Aerial roots on Douce de Picardie. They sprout copiously right up the stem. Also shown here is a green unripe fruit with caterpillar damage. The flesh has been eaten right off on one side but the gel inside is just sitting there perfectly intact, so dry is the inside of this tomato.   Douce de Picardie aerial roots

The plants produce quite wide-petalled flowers with long sepals, and a slightly paler yellow than average for a tomato. The fruits swell quite quickly once they get going and make pale green apple-shaped fruits of varying size. The skin is quite silky and smooth and it stays very firm right up to full ripeness.

That firmness is very much a feature. This is not a squishy tomato. The flesh is quite thick and low on juice, and when you cut it open (or tear a piece out as in the photo) you find the flesh is quite separate from the gel. There is a decisive gap between the two and the inner surface of the flesh is dry. The seeds are set into the surface of the gel strawberry-fashion. The gel is actually quite juicy once you cut it open, but overall it's a pretty small amount of wet stuff compared to most tomatoes.

Ripening is partly determined by colour ... the green fades to pale golden yellow, getting whiter at full ripeness. Or you can gently squeeze them to find the moment when the flesh starts to yield.

     

Eaten raw, it's a matter of taste whether you enjoy this tomato or not. The flesh is quite grainy and mealy and there's not much juice. Cooked, it keeps its flavour and shape. It's quite nice cut up in chunks in a sauce with red tomatoes, because the chunks stay intact. They're grainy and firm textured, very like the flesh of a peach. The strong flavour stands out even when cooked with other tomatoes. There's no acidity in the flavour, it's all savoury sweetness.

Douce de Picardie showed no resistance to blight and the leaves began to succumb quite early on. However the fruits were still clean and usable for some time. Maybe the blight spores have trouble penetrating such firm and dry fruits!

  Douce de Picardie tomato
   

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Text and images © Rebsie Fairholm. All rights reserved.