A Qatari farm near Al Khor has produced what could be considered as a national record for the biggest organic tomato in the country, weighing 1.34kg and six times bigger than the average-size tomato. The 'giant' tomato was grown by Agrico, a private Qatari agricultural development company producing organic vegetables and fruits, and aims to help the country to achieve food security.
“This is the first time that a natural species of an old Italian tomato is successfully grown in Qatar in a plain organic manner, i.e. without any genetic modification or the use of pesticides and chemicals to protect the plant,” Agrico owner and managing director Nasser al-Khalaf told 'Gulf Times'.
After a few trials and errors, he noted that he and his team managed to grow traditional species of tomatoes, originally found in Tuscany, Italy in the 19th century, from seed to fruit. Ancient vegetables are known to be naturally more resistant to many parasites, but noticeably difficult to be grown outside their original habitat, according to al-Khalaf.
“This is the challenge that Agrico won, growing a first batch of 30 ancient plants, which are now all full of tomatoes,” he said. “This very type of plant usually produces tomatoes, which weigh 600 to 900gm each, although it is not uncommon to harvest 1kg or even 1.5kg single tomato.”
The farm owner stressed that Tuscany jumbo tomatoes are in high demand among starred restaurants (and an expanding customer basis) in Italy due to their sweet and delicate taste. These types of tomatoes also have few seeds and an abundant juicy firm pulp that make them ideal for bruschetta and many other recipes, he added. “Their concentration in healthy minerals and nutrients is much higher than average.”
With the help of food and agri-business enthusiast Dr Salvino Salvaggio, plans to grow ‘ancient vegetables’ pushed through.
“When I was approached by my friend Salvaggio to grow a 19th century species of Italian tomatoes in my farm in Al Khor I thought he had lost his mind, even more when he added that the tomatoes weigh more than half kilo each,” al-Khalaf said. “But he is a respected professional at Qatar Foundation, so I trusted him.”
“I also thought that this could be a stimulating challenge for our farming company Agrico. Now, after a few attempts, I am the first to be positively astonished by the incredible size and taste of the jumbo tomatoes,” he added.
Agrico plans to take “this proof of concept” to the next stage by growing more of these species of organic tomatoes to meet the demand in the market, especially for restaurants and customers in the country. “By harvesting a 1.34kg traditional tomato, Agrico sets a new record in Qatar and demonstrates that the challenge of food security can also be tackled in a very pragmatic way by growing organic ancient vegetables, which are richer in taste and healthier than many imported alternatives,” al-Khalaf explained.
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