Easy to grow but difficult to resist, there's little that can beat the taste of a vine-ripened tomato, eaten when still warm from the sun.
Staggeringly, there are more than 3,000 varieties available but the real decision is whether you want to choose a vine or bush.
Vines are ideal for greenhouses but need a cane to support them and some tending to, whereas bush types are more compact and need less attention.
Recent years have seen canny seed companies develop bush types best suited to pots and hanging baskets, so virtually anyone can enjoy their own home-grown tomatoes.
The key to a successful crop is to keep the soil moist - but not waterlogged - at all times. Regular feeding, using a specialised tomato feed (available from any garden centre) is also essential.
Although tomato plants naturally live for more than a year, we use and dispose of them in a single growing season.
Despite there being varieties that are suited to both indoor and outdoor growing, they are all susceptible to frost damage and require a minimum temperature of 10oC (50oF) and bright light to grow well. For this reason it is best to plant them in moveable containers so you have full control over their growing conditions.
Your seeds can be sown from late winter to early spring. Small pots or seed trays make ideal containers to raise young plants in. Fill them with seed and cutting compost and water it using a watering can with a fine rose end. Wait 10 to 15 minutes for the water to drain through before sowing your seeds in it, 2.5cm (1in) apart.
The containers should then ideally be placed in a heated propagator or greenhouse. If neither of these is available, choose the warmest windowsill in your house and place them there.
Once the seedlings are large enough to handle, carefully move them into individual 8cm (3in) pots filled with potting compost (available from any garden centre).
When the plants are 12-15cm (4-5in) tall, they are ready to be planted into their final containers. Tomatoes are quite heavy feeders and will do best in a rich compost mix. When you're at the garden centre, forget the general or multipurpose varieties and instead plump for a high-quality John Innes compost.
A 30cm (12in) pot should be sufficient for larger bush or vine tomatoes and will easily support three cherry or trailing tomato plants. Plant them up to the first pair of leaves, as this will encourage further roots to form on the lower stem.
Water the compost with a fine, upturned rose on a watering can to gently firm down the surface on the compost, which should be sitting about 1cm (½in) below the rim. Support taller-growing specimens by using a bamboo cane and twine.
The potted plants should be placed in a sunny, sheltered position, preferably in a greenhouse or conservatory.
Hardier types (consult the seed packet) can be put outside in a warm, sunny and sheltered position once all danger of frost is passed - usually by around early June.
Water containers at least daily. Never let them dry out but always check them first to see if the compost is moist, as they should not be in waterlogged conditions for too long.
After two or three weeks, the plants will start flowering and you should begin to feed them. Use a plant food recommended specifically for tomatoes, as it will be rich in potassium, which they love.
For the best flavour, you should aim to leave the fruits on the plants for as long as possible, waiting until the colour has fully developed.
Once it has, don't hold back - picking the tomatoes regularly will encourage the plant to produce more.
Bend back the fruit at the notch on the stem and either cut or gently twist it off, supporting the vine with your other hand.
Try to remove them with the green remains of the flower still attached as this will prolong their shelf life.
They are truly delicious eaten warm, straight from the plant, but they can be stored for up to a week in the fridge.
There are many excellent varieties of tomato that are easy to grow. Remember, vine tomatoes must be staked, and kept to a single stem to concentrate their energy on producing fruits.
Bush tomatoes are compact plants with side branches that end in a cluster of flowers. Hanging basket types are bush varieties that trail more freely.
Moneymaker - a well-known and much loved variety for the home grower, equally good in the greenhouse or outdoors. The smooth, medium-size fruits have a fine flavour.
Totem F1 - this heavy-cropping variety produces large amounts of crimson-coloured tomatoes low down on its stocky stems. One of the best varieties for growing in pots and suitable for growing both indoors and out.
Trailing (hanging basket) type
Gartenperle- a good choice for growing in baskets, containers and window boxes. It is a prolific cropper, producing delicious fruits through the whole summer.
Now have a go at some of our tomato recipes
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