Tomato Heritage and Education Project
Sponsored by Guernsey Electricity
Guernsey's Tomato Industry
The Guernsey Tom, renown throughout Europe, was the major income in the island’s economy for a century, until the 1970s. At that time competition from growers in Holland and increases in the cost of oil brought about the decline of the industry. But the legend lives on and we are delighted this year to provide a glimpse in to the past - with our tomato arch project.
Each year the growing season would begin between October and December when men would ‘’steam the soil’ to eradicate disease before planting the new crop. Steam was piped from a mobile boiler outside the greenhouse through metal grids buried up to 18” deep in the soil. The steam would escape through small holes in the grids and sterilise the soil. A labour intensive and exhausting job for the men involved, often working 24 hour shifts.
Seed was sown in trays, the young plants pricked out and then planted in prepared beds.
As the plants grew they were trained over wire to create an arch ensuring that all the fruit was accessible for picking.
The fruit was picked, graded and exported in wooden ‘tomato chips’. The chips were lined with different coloured tissue paper denoting the different grades.
Around 2,000 growers were producing tomatoes at the height of the industry shipping millions of tomatoes each year.
A fascinating display at the National Trust Folk Museum (Saumarez Park) tells the story of the Guernsey Tom and its place in our history. It is well worth a visit.
Growing tomatoes the tradition way - today
Bert Fallaize, our community champion, spent 60 years in horticulture, many of them growing tomatoes. With Bert at the helm we are recreating the traditional method of growing the famous Guernsey tom in a greenhouse in the parish
The 9th St Peter's Scouts are carrying our their Community Impact project with us. "From Seed to Soup'
This nine month assignment saw them preparing the soil, sowing tomato seeds, pricking out, planting up, tending, picking and making soup with the fruit they have grown..
Bert and Carl began by rotovating the soil which hadn't been worked for some years
Compost made from vraic, horse manure and green waste and mushroom compost was dug in to the trenches with the help of the Scouts.
Next it was time to sow the tomato seeds. The scouts came along to help
A few weeks later it was time to prick out the seedlings. Bert and Corrina took the youing plants to the Scouts so the could help.
In mid May Clare Packham, Communications Manager with Guernsey Electricity came to help the Scouts plant out the young plants. The Guernsey Press photographer was there too !
The 'From Seed to Soup' project was completed in September when Chef Mike de Laune and the scouts got together at Styx to make soup with tomatoes the youngsters had grown- everyone agreed the soup was delicious!