‘Er, is that actually a tomato?’
Theo Duijvestein is a grower. Not an ordinary grower, but a Tomberry® pearl tomato grower. Theo is the only person growing the mini tomato in the Netherlands. ‘There is a wealth of information available about growing ordinary tomatoes, but not about Tomberry® pearl tomatoes. I had to figure out everything myself. And that’s half the fun!’
You see, Theo really enjoys experimenting. Many large-scale producers often only grow one or two tomato varieties. Theo has 35 in all. He’s cultivating them on two sites totalling 4.2 hectares. Half this area is used for the tomato that gave rise to the name of his business: Little Tom. “I enjoy the challenge of growing a special tomato,’ says Theo. ‘We got into growing vine tomatoes and plum tomatoes early on, back in the 1990s. We have always grown different varieties, such as the San Mazzo and the Coeur du Boeuf.’
And then came the Tomberry® pearl tomato. ‘We started off at a modest level. First we trialled a small area of 100 square metres just to see how it went. Our experiment expanded a little every year. To begin with you mainly tend to try things out and evaluate the results. We’re still learning every day. With the Tomberry® pearl tomato you take two steps forward and one step back.’
This little tomato is very labour intensive – including when it comes to keeping the crop healthy. Theo: ‘The Tomberry® pearl tomato has no resistance to diseases and pests. We’re trying to improve this by crossing varieties. It’s a tricky job. Some crosses are more resistant but fall down on flavour. And we don’t want that.’
Sorry, no visitors...
For that reason, Little Tom doesn’t allow visitors: the risk to hygiene is simply too great. Theo keeps diseases at bay very effectively using natural methods. Because the crop isn’t strong, growing all year round isn’t an option. The additional support offered by growth lighting does not unfortunately stimulate plant growth during the darker winter months.
Of course it goes without saying that Theo is a big fan of his own product. ‘What did you expect! They’re delicious in soups or salads. The Tomberry® pearl tomato is a tomato that delivers a great experience. I often notice that in people’s reactions. ‘Er, is that actually a tomato?’ And then you should see their faces when they bite into one!’