AILSA CRAIG TOMATOES
Ailsa Craig is one of those tomato varieties which the seed companies hate. Because they are open-pollinated (i.e. not F1 hybrids) the seeds are as cheap as muck and gardeners can also save their own seeds very easily. Combine that with the fact that F1 hybridisation has yet to come up with a better tasting tomato and you have no reason to spend several pounds more on expensive F1 varieties.
This variety has been grown by UK gardeners for over a hundred years (see below for more details) and that is recommendation enough for us.
BUSH OR CORDON?
Ailsa Craig is a cordon type tomato. When growing them outdoors we would recommend limiting them to 5 or at the most 6 trusses depending on how much sun you get in your area of the UK.
APPEARANCE AND TASTE OF AILSA CRAIG TOMATO
Ailsa Craig Tomatoes
As far as taste goes this variety is still the one which many gardeners compare against for measuring how tasty a tomato is. Ailsa Craig has just the right balance of sweetness and acidity combined with deep tomato flavour. There are few, if any tomatoes, which can match Ailsa Craig when it comes to taste. The texture is good for salads and just firm enough to make them excellent for slicing and serving on burgers and in sandwiches.
Older varieties like this are inevitably good as far as disease resistance goes and Ailsa Craig does not disappoint. That's one of the many reasons why it's still being grown 100 years after its introduction. Size is exactly what we all expect of a tomato and the deep red, relatively thin glossy skin makes it look the part.
Ailsa Craig is a reasonably vigorous grower and if left to its own devices can grow rather tall. Remember to pinch out leaves which cover any ripening tomatoes. Thin out leaves below the first truss when that forms and most definitely remove any yellowing foliage or stems that are near the soil surface.
The origins of this most popular tomato variety are largely a mystery but it is thought that it was first introduced in 1908 and won an Award of Merit from the RHS in 1911. It was almost certainly bred in Scotland and more than likely in Inverness by a Mr Alan Balch.
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SUMMARY CHARACTERISTICS OF AILSA CRAIG TOMATOES
GROWTH TYPE: Cordon
F1 OR OPEN-POLLINATED: Open pollinated, saved seed will come true to type. Click here for clear instructions and even clearer pictures on how to save seeds from Ailsa Craig tomatoes.
WHERE TO GROW: Outdoors does very well, can also be grown in a greenhouse.
USE: Salads, sandwiches and general use. Slices well.
SKIN COLOUR / TEXTURE: Red glossy skins with a smooth texture
FLESH COLOUR: Red
TASTE AND TEXTURE: Excellent tasting tomato with a texture which is juicy but retains its shape
STORAGE: Can be picked green, ripens very well on a window sill
TOMATO SIZE: Standard tomato size
REGULARITY OF CROPPING: Regularly produces a good yield
SPECIAL FEATURES: Superb taste
WHEN TO SOW AILSA CRAIG SEED
The key dates for sowing and planting out Ailsa Craig seeds are:
Sow seeds in pots indoors
Second week of March
Pot up young plants
Second week of April
Harden off young plants
First week of May
Plant out young plants
Third week of May
WHEN TO HARVEST AILSA CRAIG TOMATOES
This variety is a cordon type tomato and if they are pruned in that way you can expect to be picking your first Ailsa Craig tomatoes in the first week of August
BUYING AILSA CRAIG SEED IN THE UK
Seeds for Ailsa Craig are available from almost all online seed merchants, garden centres, diy stores and several of the supermarkets. The cheapest are probably Aldi or Wilkinson's. If you want to be sure that your Ailsa Craig seed comes true to type (not all do) we would suggest buying it from a reputable gardening company.
Ailsa Craig is also widely available as pot grown tomato plants. Taking into account postage it is probably cheapest and easiest to buy them from your local garden centre.
If you need any more information on growing this variety, click here to go to our main tomato page.
Other varieties which may also be of interest include:
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