Connected Communities

In search of the Wallasey Tomato

Tomatoes by Thelonious Gonzo (CC BY 2.0)

Tomatoes by Thelonious Gonzo (CC BY 2.0)

I was asking about seed swaps in Liverpool on Twitter a little while ago, and ended up having a great discussion with local foodies about perhaps setting up something for this year  (see the full discussion here). Jen from Mediated Garden had organised a Liverpool Seedy Saturday last year, and we thought it would be nice to follow up on this with another later in 2013. It seemed like a good idea to think about this at the beginning of the growing season so we could plan out which plants we wanted to grow from seed. Sarah Horton from Plot 44 suggested we each grow five local varieties so that we’d have a good range to swap at the end of the year.

I had heard mention of a ‘Wallasey Tomato’ at our Show & Tell and suggested that this could be one of our varieties. The Mr Seel’s Garden team had interviewed two market gardeners from Wallasey at one of our Memory Days and since I had some leads, I said I’d follow up on this and see if I could find any of the mythical seed for us to plant.

A quick search of the internet showed that others have set off on this search. In 1998 a Pat Wilson from New Brighton advertised in the Wirral Globe, asking for seed for her and a group of other keen gardeners. I also found mention of the tomato more recently on the website of Councillor Chris Blakeley where he was announcing the possibility of new allotments. In the comments, Brian (no last name) suggested that these should be built on the ex-market garden land on Leasowe Road saying that “maybe the famous tasty Wallasey tomato will return!”

So I got in contact with Jill Joynson, whose family had market gardens on Leasowe Road and she then gave me contacts for a couple of second generation market gardeners still growing on the Wirral. My first contact knew of the tomato, but said that his theory was that the Wallasey tomato wasn’t a particular variety bred by the local market gardeners, but that what gave the tomato its distinctive flavour was the rich local soil. He suggested that there might have been a variety that was used more often, but that seed saving practices actually weren’t that common among market gardeners when he was younger, as most bought from seed catalogues to ensure greater reliability. He did say though that this was only his take on the mystery and that others might well tell a different story…

I’ve yet to call my other contact, but I thought I’d also throw the question out on t’internet to see if anyone else had any leads? If you do please email us.

Michelle Bastian