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Juice makers rescue tomato crop caught in lockdown sales squeeze

PUBLISHED: 09:37 14 August 2020 | UPDATED: 09:37 14 August 2020

Suffolk Sweet Tomatoes horticultural director Richard Lewis,  labour manager Anelia Romanova, and growing manager Stephen Lewis  Picture: STERLING SUFFOLK

Suffolk Sweet Tomatoes horticultural director Richard Lewis, labour manager Anelia Romanova, and growing manager Stephen Lewis Picture: STERLING SUFFOLK

Sterling Suffolk

A sales lull during lockdown has resulted in a fruitful tie-in between different food businesses.

Scarlett and Mustard Suffolk Tomato Chutney made using Suffolk Sweet Tomatoes  Picture: STERLING SUFFOLKScarlett and Mustard Suffolk Tomato Chutney made using Suffolk Sweet Tomatoes Picture: STERLING SUFFOLK

Suffolk Sweet Tomatoes was left with a surplus of tomatoes after its local sales to the restaurant and pub trade dried up overnight due to the coronavirus lockdown.

The business – based in a giant glasshouse complex in Great Blakenham, near Ipswich – decided to join forces with other local food firms – and support the NHS.

Together with Sandy Ruddock, co-founder and owner of Framlingham condiments firm Scarlett and Mustard and Clive Williamson, owner of Maynard House apple juices of Bradfield Combust near Bury St Edmunds, it came up with some inventive uses for the excess fruit.

And working with Philip Turner, founder of the Chestnut Group, which owns 11 pubs throughout East Anglia it supported the NHS Food for Heroes scheme by supplying it with some of the excess tomatoes.

Maynard House Vine Tomato Juice produced using Suffolk Sweet Tomatoes  Picture: STERLING SUFFOLKMaynard House Vine Tomato Juice produced using Suffolk Sweet Tomatoes Picture: STERLING SUFFOLK

“Sandy from Scarlett and Mustard was amazing. She had a great recipe and turned kilos of our tomatoes into the most flavoursome Suffolk Chutney. The result is now in local farm shops and East of England Co-ops,” said Julia Keeble, operations manager at Suffolk Sweet Tomatoes.

“We next turned to Clive from Maynard House who is now selling in our opinion the sweetest, smoothest tomato juice you have ever tasted in a number of local outlets.”

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It was also “a complete privilege” to work on a charitable project for NHS workers with the Chestnut Group, she said.

Suffolk Sweet Tomatoes  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNSuffolk Sweet Tomatoes Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

“Covid 19 produced many challenges. We rethought and restructured how we approach local sales, how we can work with and support local producers, and as a result have many exciting new projects in development which we hope will result in some great new products,” she said.

“When timing allows, we will be hosting events here on site – it is a great opportunity for all things tomato and Suffolk.”

The tomatoes are grown by a team managed by horticultural director Richard Lewis, alongside his son, growing manager Stephen Lewis, and labour manager Anelia Romanova.

Suffolk Sweet Tomatoes is a local brand launched by tomato grower Sterling Suffolk, based at Blakenham Nursery, about a year ago to supply local shops with produce from the glasshouses.

Tomato plants being grown at the Blakenham Nursery by Sterling Suffolk  Picture: PAUL GEATERTomato plants being grown at the Blakenham Nursery by Sterling Suffolk Picture: PAUL GEATER

Suffolk Sweet Tomatoes are Red Tractor and LEAF certified. The plants are grown in coir, a coconut fibre. It combats pests with beneficial insects and disease using cultural techniques, friendly bacteria and bio sprays. Weeds are kept at bay with ground cover and simply weeding.

All the rain which falls on the glasshouse complex along with the condensation from inside is captured along with drain water from the plants and stored in a 61 million litre reservoir,

Crops are pollinated naturally using native British bumble bees. When they have finished their working life they are released into the hedgerows which surround our nursery.


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