Brisbane Local Food

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The Tommy Toe Tomato Appreciation Society : TTT

By Dave Riley

Founder & President

Tommy Toe tomatoes are often referred to as an Australian variety. This may not be strictly true, but, let's say, they belong in the Australian backyard.

The easiest tomato to grow and, from my POV, the tastiest.

Even by the standard vegetables-to-grow challenge,  Tommy Toes are welcoming to the novice gardener.

I think the term 'cherry' does these darlings a disservice as the ones I prefer to grow are bigger than that, bigger than 'grape' tomatoes-- but smaller than their bulkier tomatery  kin.

But they are so sweet! One mouthful is all it takes.

I cook with them. Freeze them. Dry them. I even buy them canned.

No need to peel as in the grand scheme of things their smaller size warrants not much skin covering.

This year I have been experimenting with other tomato varieties and I've found the exercise disappointing. I do that every now and then, but are always forced back to Tommy Toe loyalty.

Tommies are so reliable, so prolific when they fruit and so undemanding of intervention that when they self sow -- as they will -- it is difficult to deny the offspring a life.

The worse thing you can do growing TTTs (Tomy Toe Tomatoes), is grow other varieties with them because when the toms self seed you don't know what you've got coming on-- most times -- until the fruit forms.

I say:If you are gonna have tomato 'weeds' --and you will-- let them be TTT.

You can string TTT up or trellis them, but they are real ramblers and like headstrong adolescents, prefer to find their own way about. Unsupervised, I let them bulk up into a bush then add sticks to the sides so that they don't steal too much of the bed.

Currently, I'm growing TTTs among Vetiver Grass clumps and using the clump heads to support the TTT stems. If you ensure that there's a bulky, fibrous  mulch layer underneath the tomato bush, you are less likely to encourage fruit rot  -- even in wet weather, despite the leaves and fruits resting on the ground.

TTT are more resistant to fruit fly and fungi so that you can do season after a season infection free.

From only a few bushes I can freeze enough TTT to last me for a year of future cooking.

That sweet, slightly tangy, flavour is a subtle addition to a dish, way better than the overpowering richness you get from using Romas or other paste taste tomatoes.

And you can cook via arithmetic: add 4 or 6 or 10 tomatoes as your taste buds dictate. Frozen TTT stay separated like marbles in a bag.

I find it best to sweat TTT by braising until they explode  out of their skins. Before serving mash them if necessary. Let the heat work is magic.

They are excellent added to the oven roast 15-20 minutes before serving. A quick microwave will also offer flavour burst.

You can chop them, but use a serrated knife to get a clean cut and limit yourself  to quarter divisions.

For drying, a half slice will suffice.

Because they have such a small surface area, TTT ripen quickly.

However, more so than other varieties you need to pick them with some stem on so that you don't cause a wound in the skin. Wounded they will spoil quicker -- especially if you store them outside the fridge (as you should).

Fortunately you can often remove a whole stem loaded with fruit when you harvest.

If you are a tomato sandwich person then I guess the TTT won't suit your yearning for a broad slice. This is why salsas were invented.

The trick with TTT --indeed with all tomato salsas ( as per Pico de Gallo)-- is to roast or grill or dry fry  the tomatoes first.That beckons an altogether higher flavour level.

Myself and the committee of management of The Tommy Toe Tomato Appreciation Society hope you have enjoyed these shared thoughts on what is so often a neglected member of the tomato family. TTT may not boast an exotic name but like damper and billy tea, it warrants it belongs in your mouth.

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Comment by Dave Riley on December 13, 2020 at 20:35

Sure thing, Ron. Thanks. I hang out here.

Let me know any swap options. You've inspired me with seed saving too...

Comment by Ron Hyde on December 11, 2020 at 14:04

Hi Dave

Still working my way through the site and came across your Tommy Toe growing, I have also been growing these for a long time, also grow some other tomatoes of similar size, thought I would send you a pic of some of my harvest from last year, I can recommend you grow the Black Cherries and the Honey Bees both give Tommy Toes a run for the best tasting cherry tomatoe. In the pic, BCs on the left, HBs, 2 bowls of TTs and a bowl of the three mixed, have seeds if you want to try growing the BCs or HBs


Comment by Andrew Cumberland on August 27, 2020 at 20:42

I love the Tommy Toes as well,.

Comment by Dave Riley on August 27, 2020 at 19:39

Tragically, I've eaten all the tomatoes I dried. They proved so tasty and useful.

I did dry a huge amount of tomatoes! So I can't wait to dry some more.

Given my preferred culinary lifestyle, the dried toms became the best thing since sliced bread and I won't be able to return to other preserving habits without gastronomical protest.

I still have dried strawberries. They taste yum. As well I dried a few kilograms of bananas. They're there too.

But the tomatoes! Oh the Tommy Toe Tomatoes!

Comment by Christa on August 20, 2020 at 20:20

You won me Dave, I am going to only grow Tommy Toe Tomatoes,  genuine sweet tommies.

When we had the tomato tasting comp. at Rogers GV, the tomato that tasted sweet to me, was the Tommy Toe as I found out afterwards but did not know who grew it. There was no comparison for sweetness.  

I did not know they came in cans.  Can't wait to dry them.

Comment by Dave Riley on August 20, 2020 at 19:02

My tomato habit was greatly impacted this year by the embrace of drying. While I dried fruits, I have been overwhelmed by the efficacy of dried tomatoes and dried field mushrooms.

After drying so many toms, I'm now dealing with my supply running low as I wait for more Tommy Toes to ripen. If you relegate (sun)dried tomatoes to an exotic pizza topping, you are missing out on their versatility.

Salsa, salads, in stews, with eggs, added to soups...

I've been throwing them into a lot of dishes. Their advantage is not only their special taste but that they hold their texture. They can be chewy if you like or soft like a jube.

Dried tomatoes also make for a quick snack eaten out of hand.

I dried heaps of tomatoes -- so I thought -- but I'm running out while I still have jars of dried bananas, strawberries and pawpaw.

They were more popular with my stomach than I expected.

It seems that I need to plan to grow many more toms just for drying.

As for the mushrooms...a variety sold as 'field mushrooms' here in Qld (probably Agaricus campestris (pictured at right) or Agaricus bitorquis  )  is my favorite eating mushroom which, quite rightly, is seasonal. So this year I bought up big and dried a supply.

Agaricus bisporus are the commonly sold button mushroom, and they are pretty tasteless I reckon.  Nothing says paddock (and cow dung) to me more than campestris does. When a boy I always spent my Winter hols mushrooming on my uncles and aunts farms in Victoria.

My problem is that the  Agaricus  here in Qld seems to be a different species than the one I picked in Victoria. Since mycology is a skilled science, I am unwilling to trust myself out and about here in Qld.

As this posts explains, there are many different Agaricus  about the landscape.

Of course, you can get dried Shiitake mushrooms from any Asian grocer -- and I buy and use those.


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