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Tomatoes at Nutbourne Nursery near Pulborough

PUBLISHED: 11:41 30 July 2015 | UPDATED: 11:41 30 July 2015

Gary Griffiths

Gary Griffiths

Archant

The Griffiths family grow beautiful tomatoes at their nursery near Pulborough, finds chef Christopher Archambault

Nutbourne TomatoesNutbourne Tomatoes

The importance of tomatoes to our cultural and culinary world is so great it is often overlooked. It’s funny to think that they were once regarded with much suspicion in Britain, some people even believing they were poisonous. By the mid-18th century they were a near staple.

The vast myriad of sauces, preparations, signature dishes, home-cooked favourites and processed goods which contain this South American fruit is incalculable in number. When you get your hands on a box of Nutbourne tomatoes, you’ll want to cook all of them. The colours, shapes, varying sweetness, acidity and fragrance of heritage tomatoes are unsurpassed. The versatility of beefsteak, the honeyed hit of piccolo cherry, the earthy aroma of any fresh fruit from the vine. At Nutbourne the Griffiths family cultivates more than 30 varieties. As Gary Griffiths states, there’s a tomato for every occasion.

Green zebras have a firmness that hold up to breading and frying, beef hearts are meaty and robust, goldens add a great colour twist and San Marzanos have that classic tomato flavour. One exciting new variety is the pink beef, its unique shade instantly standing out among the throng.

It’s a family affair up in Nutbourne, with Gary and Gary Junior tending the crops and the very particular Jenny ensuring every box contains the exact right mix, correctly packed for transport. The term food hero is bandied about a lot these days, but it’s a real joy and honour to meet one truly deserving of the title. Gary Griffiths has been quietly plying his trade up in Nutbourne since 1979, slowly focusing more and more on the heritage tomato as economics, interest and a gap in the market dictated the sublime specimens that regularly emerge from his glasshouses throughout the season. The level of detail and care is second to none. From choosing and purchasing the right insects to populate and police the environment, to intensive training of staff and reinvestment of the site, take it from a chef, this is the real deal. The product simply speaks for itself. It’s the best. And top restaurants, chefs and markets across the UK know it.

Gary’s answer to one of my questions really stood out. In response to an enquiry about what he hopes the future will hold, Gary said: “Well, we’re about as big as I want to be, as I can manage...and it’s all about satisfaction in a stand-out product that is instantly identifiable as my own. Respected in the industry.” Enough said. And it’s all true. There’s a box of tomatoes... and then there’s a box of Nutbourne Heritage Tomatoes.

Nutbourne Nursery, Stream Lane, Pulborough, West Sussex RH20 2HG; 01798 812902

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