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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 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.

For all the tomato varieties which we have fully reviewed, click the drop down box below, select a variety and then click the More Information Button.


 

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

AWARDS: None

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:

ALICANTE
 
GARDENERS DELIGHT
 
SUNGOLD RED ALERT

COMMENTS / QUESTIONS LEFT BY OUR READERS

Sometimes our readers ask specific questions which are not covered in the main article above. Our
Outdoor Tomatoes comment / question and answer page
lists their comments, questions and answers. At the end of that page there is also a form for you to submit any new question or comment you have.