Would-be award winning tomatoes went in the bolognese

Downheated Kris Collins after the Van Mewwen tomato growing competition

Downheated Kris Collins after the Van Mewwen tomato growing competition - Credit: Archant

A PR officer who helped launch a giant tomato-growing competition with a £1,000 prize threw away his chance of winning when he cooked up a treat for his family.

Van Meuwen tomato growing competition at the Harrogate Autumn Show

Van Meuwen tomato growing competition at the Harrogate Autumn Show - Credit: Archant

The initial marketing campaign for the Van Meuwen’s Gigantomo Tomato competition featured a true photograph of a giant fruit grown in the US, some 30cm in diameter.

And growers were offered a £1,000 bounty if they too could produce a giant specimen - and take it along to The Harrogate Autumn Show.

Inspired by the images, Kris Collins PR officer for Van Meuwen, which is a brand of famous Ipswich seeds and plant company Thompson & Morgan, decided to have a go himself.

Kris, a keen amateur gardener, initially sowed his seeds in the conservatory of his Suffolk home.

He said: “I love my garden and I am quite experimental. I grow a lot of chillies

“It was the first time I had tried growing giant tomatoes. I put my plants out into the conservatory in April and they did well.

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“They were certainly the biggest I have ever grown. I was quite pleased.”

But despite thinning the fruits to encourage giant produce and using a secret homemade fertiliser, Kris’s Gigantomos failed to grow much bigger.

Assessing the weights amongst his final harvest, he didn’t think he stood a chance against seasoned giant fruit growers.

“Faced with two large tomatoes I decided to make a bolognese with one and a fresh tomato salad with the other rather than pit them against the giant fruit-growing fraternity,” said Kris.

His largest fruit weighed in at 4lb 3oz (1.95kg) and made the perfect base for a Bolognese sauce, but you can imagine his shock come Harrogate Show weigh-in day to find the winning fruit came in at just 3lb 8oz (1.75kg).

“When we heard the weight of the winning fruit, I apparently went a little pale in the face as it dawned on me that I had treated my family to the most expensive pasta dish on the planet. If I had kept the fruit for exhibition I could have treated them to a nice holiday instead of a simple home-cooked meal. I was expecting to see tomatoes the size of footballs, not baseballs!”

Van Meuwen general manager, Chris Wright, said he was happy to award the £1,000 prize money to Joe Atherton, of Mansfield Woodhouse, Nottinghamshire, as weather conditions had not been ideal for tomato growers this season.

To have a fully ripe tomato, let alone a giant, was an impressive result. He said: “Sadly, weather conditions have prevented growers from meeting the true potential of this fantastic giant tomato, but if this is what can be produced in a cool season, imagine what can be done in a hot summer.

“Gigantomo truly has the potential to create a world record breaker and we hope to see growers trying again next year in order to bring the world record for the heaviest tomato to UK shores.”

Chris also says that what Gigantomo lacks in appearance is made up for in flavour.

“Most other large varieties lack taste and texture.

“Gigantomo might not always make the prettiest tomatoes, but independent taste tests prove it holds its flavour whatever the size or shape of the fruit.

“It also has a high flesh content with little juice or seeds, making it perfect for a wide variety of uses – you can feed a whole family with just one tomato!”

As Halloween approaches we are looking for growers of giant pumpkins. Tell us how big your home-grown pumpkin is and we will send a photographer out to see how it measures up.