The Tomato Stall nursery grows around 200 varieties of tomato of varying size, skin thickness, sugar and acids. In many ways, it is the epitome of the local food culture on the Island. While 70% of the site is traditionally managed, 30% is organic, making the company the largest organic grower of tomatoes in the UK. The farm has come a long way from the time it sold its produce at just two farmers markets. Now it can sell direct to major retailers keen to sell distinctive tomatoes that have also travelled some way from the traditional hum-drum beef or cherry vine tomato.
‘It’s down to sun and being an Island,’ says Daniella Voisey, sales and marketing manager for The Tomato Stall. ‘We simply get more daylight hours here and being close to the sea we get that light reflected back in.’
The Tomato Stall grows plants from seeds that have been developed elsewhere, and benefits from good relationships with innovative seed growers. They offer mixed heritage varieties to slow-roasted tomatoes with chilli and fennel. You can even get tomatoes that have the flavours of apricots or gooseberries. The crops are grown in coconut husks, a natural substrate that can be composted after its use has been exhausted. In addition to the tomatoes, the company produces tomato sea salt, tomato juice and tomato jams.
‘We’re always trying to find the best and tastiest tomato and that is what makes us different,’ says Daniella. ‘There are so many seeds out there and the retailers want to shout out that their product is exclusive, or high flavoured, to differentiate themselves in the market. The days of “Ready, Steady, Cook” are long gone. People don’t need to be told how to use olive oil, they are far more invested in the food they eat.’
The site, located near Arreton, in the middle of the Island, is closed to the general public for bio-security reasons (people can bring diseases in on footwear and clothing). Every other year, The Tomato Stall opens its doors for one day to the public. If you want to the chance to learn more at first-hand about the world of tomatoes, sign up to the company newsletter or keep an eye on their social media.