Heritage vegetable review
Orange Strawberry   Orange Strawberry tomato

Age: don't know ... will update this if I find out
My supplier: Association Kokopelli
Pros: beautiful silky fruits, holds up well against blight
Cons: needs time to ripen, and good support for its heavy fruits

Among the tomatoes I grew in 2008, Orange Strawberry was one of the slowest to ripen. It may just have been that I was growing it in the shadiest corner of the greenhouse where it got very little direct sun. But its slowness wasn't much of a problem because it resisted the inevitable blight better than most (that's not to say it doesn't get blight, only that on this occasion it resisted long enough to give a decent harvest). Considering what an exotic-looking and large-fruited variety it is, I was pleasantly surprised at how well it took to the British climate in a less-than-perfect year.

It's an oxheart type, which means the fruits are large, fleshy, flavoursome and heart-shaped.

 
 
 
   

I grew mine in an unheated greenhouse, where it produced very tall and very upright plants. It was more interested in growing upwards than making sideshoots, although it started to sprawl a bit at a later stage. It's most definitely an indeterminate type and was soon on its way out of the roof vents. The flowers are attractive ... larger than an average tomato flower and composite with lots of petals.

Fruit-wise, Orange Strawberry is something a bit different and special. It's shaped, not surprisingly, a bit like an orange strawberry, albeit a very large and ribby and pleated one. Broad at the top, and curving into a blunt point at the blossom end, although there is some variability in the exact size and shape. I've seen pictures of other people's fruits that were more pointed than mine, so expect some variability. The top of the fruit is ribbed, with a more subtle scalloped pattern descending right down to the base, much like the patterns made by melted chocolate. It's very attractive and unusual. The unripe fruits are a very pale green with a porcelain-like translucence. They ripen through a pale orange, finally ending up a glowing bright carrot orange.

    Orange Strawberry tomato

The fruits are extremely dense and heavy, and there's lots of them, so it's important to give the plants adequate support when the fruits start to swell. The peduncles are tough and fibrous, strong enough to hold the weight of the fruits, and take a bit of tugging at harvest time.

One of the stand-out features of this variety is the silky smooth texture of its skin. At the unripe stage it looks almost waxy, and is delightful to touch. Fully ripe fruits lose some of the silkiness and become more like other tomatoes, but it is a nice feature while it lasts. You could probably pick an unripe fruit to use as a stress-reliever, so lovely it is to stroke.

Photo: Slightly less pointed and strawberry-shaped than the fruits I've seen in pictures, but this is fairly typical of the fruits I got.

     

Sliced open, the inside of this tomato is almost solid flesh, with minimal locular tissue and very few seeds. The gel is confined to a few very thin seams just under the pericarp. This is a common attribute of oxheart tomatoes, which makes them excellent for cooking because their fleshiness makes for substantial sauces. By the same token they're slightly frustrating for seed savers, because the seeds are few and far between and the tiny pockets of gel are difficult to locate within the mass of fleshy fruit. It's a bit odd really when a tomato the size of a large fist yields little more than a dozen seeds.

The flavour is strong, rich and savoury. It doesn't work for me raw, but I'm not the biggest fan of raw tomatoes. This, like other fleshy types, comes into its own as a cooking tomato. Especially nice if you fancy a bright orange sauce. The flesh is crispy when raw, and cooking turns it into something grainy but soft, like the flesh of a peach. The cooked flavour has a nice balance between sweet and savoury, with a hint of fruityness thrown in. It certainly has plenty of flavour, far more so than most 'paste' tomatoes.

  Orange Strawberry oxheart tomato
     

Would I grow this one again? Definitely. It's eye-catching and exotic but has many genuinely useful attributes, and grows and fruits well. Recommended.

Photo: Threefold fruit! This amazing and beautiful object was the first Orange Strawberry fruit my plants produced, from a composite flower. It's basically three fruits fused into one.

  Orange Strawberry triple tomato
   

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Text and images © Rebsie Fairholm. All rights reserved.