A mate and I recently visited another friend from our Writtle College days (where we studied conservation, garden design and horticulture respectively), who now works for Suttons Seeds in Devon. But what was planned as a social visit soon became far more exciting and interesting.
Our friend had already planned to give us an interesting tour of Suttons to show us what he does but this innocent plan got slightly more intriguing a day or two beforehand when he rang us both up to ask ‘whether it would be ok if James Wong was there as well?’. Yes. A thousand times, yes – the idea of meeting famous people still has quite a lot of novelty value. However, through my Trainee position, I had met James briefly at one of this summer’s flower shows but acquainting with him at Suttons presented a great opportunity to talk to him and get to know him better.
Also, I’d just visited the Suffolk seed company, Mr Fothergill’s the same week, so I was genuinely curious in seeing Suttons Seeds: not only to see what my friend does for a living, but also professionally, to see what exciting plants another seed company is growing, developing and producing. And soon, due to what James was visiting for, it became clear - he was doing some research for his upcoming RHS/Mitchell Beazley book which involved testing some veg growing at Suttons. This led to all four of us readily munching away through what seemed like all of Suttons Seed’s 200 selections of tomatoes all morning in their polytunnels and on their trials fields.
My particular favourites included: ‘Indigo Rose’ - which was in the top five of this year’s Plant of the Year category at Chelsea - a deep, smoky-purple coloured tomato which is lovely but apparently quite hard to tell when ripe; ‘Artisan Sunrise Bumble Bee’ which was a beautiful, gold and red striped fruit that was delicious (particularly straight off the plant) and; ‘Tomaccio’, an exciting cultivar that gains a ‘sun-dried’ quality to it while it is still on the plant – incredibly tasty. It was a really enjoyable morning, particularly because of the free food. As a shameless service to my friend, I should mention that ‘Indigo Rose’ and ‘Artisan Sunrise Bumble Bee’ are available from Suttons now and ‘Tomaccio’ is one to look out for in the future.
After this, I think none of us would have begrudged James making a quick exit back to London after his Suttons visit but instead we enjoyed a BBQ together (he was in charge of salad) and a long evening’s worth of beer.