Sussex tomatoes grow in harmony

As British tomato season gets underway, look out for produce grown in Sussex which has ripened on the vine while absorbing the work of Beethoven, Handel and Tchaikovsky.

For the last few weeks, tomatoes and staff from The Green House Sussex have been enjoying weekly ‘proms for the toms’ with classical music played through glasshouses.

Initially inspired by the farm’s location close to the cottage in Felpham where William Blake lived, the musical line-up includes Jerusalem. This Last Night of the Proms classic features Blake’s famous poem ‘And did those feet in ancient time’, set to music by Hubert Parry.

Richard Diplock manages The Green House Sussex: “We are just down the road from the cottage where William Blake lived, which he described as the sweetest spot on Earth. I can’t disagree, and it felt right that this year we did something extra special for our tomatoes and our team.

“The last twelve months have been, quite honestly, a real challenge to ensure continued supply to the supermarkets whilst ensuring the safety of our staff. Lockdown has been tough for people in different ways, but for British tomato growers it meant pulling together to help feed the nation. The extraordinary situation with both the pandemic and Brexit has highlighted the need for more food to be grown as close as possible to where it’ll be eaten. When it comes to tomatoes, this makes sense anyway for quality, taste and to reduce food miles.

“With that backdrop of a challenging twelve months and the focus on increasing the numbers British tomatoes grown, it suddenly seemed fitting to surround our vines with a dose of positive British tradition – and what better way than capturing the spirit of Last Night of the Proms, or should I say Toms.

“They do say plants respond to music, and our team has really enjoyed it too.”

Julie Woolley helps run the British Tomato Growers’ Association and is currently gearing up for British Tomato Fortnight from 24th May, when British tomato season is in full swing.

“We represent 90% of tomato growers in the UK and over the years we’ve see the passion and care that goes into growing the most delicious tomatoes around. Playing crops classical compositions is a new one, but I do remember a rock concert being held in a greenhouse in the 80s!

“You can stock up on your favorite British tomatoes at all major supermarkets, both in store and online. And keep an eye out at your local greengrocers, street markets and farms.”

The selection of music played to the tomatoes includes rousing prom classics like Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, Beethoven’s Symphony No 9 and God Save the Queen. The team at Green House Sussex are now welcoming suggestions for what else should be on the playlist. Email or visit thegreenhousesussex_ on Instagram. 

In 1977, The Green House Sussex began growing tomatoes on a plot of 2.5 acres. It’s now one of the largest nurseries in the country growing six varieties of tomato, all chosen for their incredible flavor – the Roterno, Sunstream, Piccolo, Arlinta, Ruby Jewel, and Caramella.


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