I bought a £1 cherry tomato plant from Scotmid to see if I could actually grow some tomatoes
Who knew you could form such a strong emotional attachment to a plant
The Marchmont Scotmid on Warrender Park Road is a weird and wonderful place, known for its great wine selection, rare crisps, and a 10 per cent student discount. However, it also has a pretty good plant and garden section if I do say so myself.
Located outside right by the door, it’s hard to miss the shelves of baby garden plants just waiting to be adopted by any student foolish enough to take on the challenge of successfully growing a living thing.
On Saturday 16th April, I was that foolish student who became the proud mum of a cherry tomato plant.
And of course, I named him Romario.
Despite my track record for killing plants, I couldn’t say no to the little green baby in his adorable red pot. And with a price tag of only £1, there was little to lose if it all went wrong.
Skipping home up Marchmont Crescent with Romario in hand, I ignored the fact that I had no idea how to successfully grow tomatoes, and instead fantasised about all the pasta dishes I would make in the future using my very own homegrown produce.
The instructions on the label just said to water the plant regularly and keep it in direct sunlight, so I re-potted him in a spare plant pot we had lying around, and put him on the kitchen windowsill where he could soak up the sun.
In all honesty, I was doubtful Romario would actually produce any edible tomatoes. But I decided to take regular photos to track his progress, and here’s what happened:
Two weeks in: Pretty in yellow
Almost exactly two weeks after I got him, I noticed the first real change in my tomato plant apart from his change in size. He had grown one small yellow flower, and I couldn’t have been prouder.
According to my research, tomato plants first grow tiny yellow flowers which then need to be pollinated for the actual tomato fruit to grow.
Over the next couple of weeks, Romario continued to grow bigger and also produce more and more yellow flowers.
About four weeks after I bought him, he had grown a significant amount from his original size, and was a vision in green and yellow.
Five weeks in: Is that a tomato?!
I don’t think I’ve ever experienced as much joy as when I found Romario’s first tomato.
He started with just one on the Wednesday, but by Saturday he had numerous baby green tomatoes starting to grow from where the yellow flowers once were.
After a quick Google, it seemed to suggest that it would take at least another month for these baby tomatoes to actually grow and ripen.
It also was becoming apparent that Romario and his tomatoes would quickly outgrow his pot, so it would soon be time to invest in a bigger home for him, and maybe even buy some of those plant stick things that you see gardening professionals use to support their growing plants.
That night, I went to bed happy. I was such a good plant mum.
Seven weeks in: You’re getting way too big for your pot
At this point Romario had definitely outgrown his pot, so I moved him into a bigger one that I picked up in IKEA.
He now had 1o tomatoes out, with seemingly even more to come.
Some of the tomatoes were starting to grow quite big, but they were still very much green. I’d read that the hardest part of tomato growing was getting them to actually turn red, and as Edinburgh isn’t exactly known for its endless sunshine, I was starting to fear they would stay green forever.
Eight weeks in: A green monster
In just over a week, Romario had somehow tripled his tomato count.
On 12th June, I counted a whopping 32 tomatoes. That’s right, 32!
Some were just fresh little babies, while others were getting very big. However, everything was still very much green.
Nine weeks: Separation anxiety with a happy ending
Of course Romario’s tomatoes would start changing colour the second I left Edinburgh.
Typical children having no respect for their parents.
I’d left Edinburgh for a couple weeks in order to do a tour of the Tory universities (Durham, Oxford and Cambridge), leaving my flatmates in charge of the plant. For someone with some quite bad control issues, the separation anxiety was all too real.
Before leaving, I left a note on the kitchen table with an in-depth watering schedule for them to follow. I’m not proud of it, but I also sent daily texts asking (pestering) about how much sunshine he had received that day.
My tomato-induced anxiety was made 100 times worse when I heard the news that his leaves were starting to look very droopy.
However, things quickly improved when I got an update saying one of his tomatoes had changed colour.
Despite all my anxiety and guilt over having to leave him for three weeks, receiving that message was one of the happiest moments of my life.
10 weeks: Loving him was red
It was a week later on the 24th June when I got the text.
I was waiting for my train back to Manchester after a week of national train strikes, Cambridge May Balls, Oxford river activities, and a newfound appreciation for just how down-to-Earth most Edinburgh students actually are compared to our colleagues in Oxbridge.
But all of that was immediately forgotten when I heard that Romario officially had red tomatoes.
It was still a week until I would be back in Edinburgh to see and taste them for myself, but the end was now very much in sight.
11 weeks: Trying the produce
Three weeks after leaving, I came back to Edinburgh to find a whole 10 red tomatoes waiting for me.
Not all of his tomatoes were ready for harvesting and many of them were still green, but against all odds Romario had actually grown some produce.
I was the proudest tomato plant mum in the whole world.
Of course, the only thing left to do was to actually try them.
As I only had 10 ready and I’d promised to take some over to a friend, I decided to make a small portion of cherry tomato pasta using six of Romario’s tomatoes.
I know I’m biased, but it was some of the best tomato pasta I’ve ever had.
As we could only make a small portion using my homegrown tomatoes, we also made more pasta using Sainsbury’s cherry tomatoes. And let me tell you now, you really can taste the difference.
Sorry Sainsbury’s, you have nothing on my Romario.
It took 11 weeks, but we made it.
I honestly can’t explain why watching a silly little £1 tomato plant grow up has made me so happy, but it really has.
Maybe it’s because I’ve had Romario longer than I’ve had any relationship, or maybe it’s because it proves I can actually be successful at something, but all I know is there’s nothing quite like eating your own freshly picked tomato from a plant that you nurtured from a little sapling.
I know many people will say it’s much quicker and easier to just buy a pack of cherry tomatoes from the supermarket, but that’s not the point.
Watching Romario grow up for 11 weeks has genuinely been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.