2011. It was the first year in my new garden, and with what initially felt like space to spare, I went wild, starting seed from every tomato that caught my fancy. I had heard about Italian long keeping tomatoes and was eager to try them. These are tomatoes that don’t ripen well on the vine within the growing season. Instead, they are brought indoors before the frost and hung in a cool spot (usually a basement or garage) to be enjoyed fresh throughout the winter. For the first time in my adult life I had a basement, so it was all systems go. I started the seed from two varieties: a small orange, bicolour fruit called ‘Giallo a Grappoli’ and the more commonly known red type ‘Grappoli d’Inverno.’ It turned out that my eyes were a lot larger than my new garden. When forced to make a choice I chose orange, ‘Giallo a Grappoli.’
- Semi-determinate/large determinate.
- Small, round, saladette size.
- Bicolour orange with blushes of yellow and deep orange.
- Ripens: Very late season
- Container Growing: I grew these in-ground but would suggest a very large pot, 16+ deep.
- Further Notes: Name translates to “Yellow Clusters”
True to their description, the plant formed fruit around mid-season and while other tomatoes came and went around them, the ‘Giallo a Grappoli’ seemed stuck in suspended animation. They did not ripen, but they did not rot either. They remained firm and developed little colour straight through to the frost. I tried the ripest fruit on the vine — it was fairly tasteless and a little mealy; not my favourite tomato of the season.
I pulled up the entire plant, stems and all and hung it on a hook in the cold cellar portion of my basement. Over time the fruit began to take on colour. We ate a few here and there, but again, they were mealy and bland. On December 24 the fresh tomato season had long passed and we were salivating for fresh fruit. While the tomatoes could not compare to an exceptional, fresh tomato in-season, these were suddenly pretty darn good. We marvelled over the novelty of a fresh tomato sandwich grown in our own backyard and enjoyed in the dead of winter.
I will grow these again in the future. After-all, tasty or not, these were fresh, affordable, organic tomatoes in the middle of winter that did not travel thousands of miles to get to my plate. Next time I will try hanging just the clusters without the entire plant. I will also try cooking or roasting the fruit in the oven, rather than eating fresh.
Have you grown this variety? I’d love to hear about your experiences with it.