Stanstead Abbotts-based grower (and my hubby) smashes UK record
I am beginning to feel like Victoria Beckham. I just can’t keep my husband Douglas Smith (pictured) out of the tabloids these days… First it was his giant sunflower which grew to 21 feet during Lockdown and got reported in The Sun, The Metro, The Telegraph, Lad Bible, Heart, BBC News 24 and even by Japanese and Australian TV. Now he is celebrating because he has finally fulfilled a long-held dream – he has broken the record for producing the UK’s biggest tomato.
The giant tomato weighed in this week at 6.85lbs – 3.106kg – beating last year’s record set by Peter Glazebrook of 6.3lbs. Last year Douglas came second at the RHS Malvern Show after producing a tomato weighing 6.11lbs.
This year’s monster was grown from a specialist giant variety called Big Zac and from seed obtained from Minnesota-based grower Larry Hill, who grew a tomato weighing 7lbs 8oz. It is so big partly because it is a combination of six ‘mega-blooms’ or fused flowers. Giant tomato growers anxiously await the appearance of ‘mega-blooms’ when growing their plants for competitions, which make it more likely the resultant fruit will be large. It’s also particularly impressive because it was grown in a pot for an international competition rather than in the ground.
Sleepless nights over weigh-in…
Douglas achieved this record after a number of sleepless nights, worrying that the tomato would last amid the bad weather – although it was grown in a greenhouse. Another major obstacle which had to be overcome were the US competition rules which stipulate that the tomato might be weighed on scales which have been recently calibrated.
By law in the US all retailers must calibrate their scales each year but this is not the case in the UK. Douglas contacted 23 different local retailers, butcher’s and grocer’s shops for help without success and eventually had to travel to Reading to have the tomato weighed and witnessed, while the US competition judges watched via a Zoom link-up.
Earlier I caught Douglas in our hallway clutching a coffee and trying to disappear upstairs away from the media hullabaloo/four year old wrecking the lounge. We’d spent the previous evening celebrating with red wine and Bailey’s which we were now regretting…
I asked him how he felt. “Elated,” he managed to mumble before stumbling upstairs for a well-earned lie-down, having been up since 6am with Stellan.
Meanwhile, the amazing sunflower ‘Sunny McSunface’ has finally given up the ghost and blown down in the recent storms – the wooden frame precariously detached from the back of our house – and is hanging its head down, ready for Douglas to harvest the seeds.
All that remains is for Douglas to decide what to grow next year. He had wondered about giant Japanese radishes – popular over there and often grown in volcanic soil – but has not yet had any luck in procuring specialist seeds. So watch this space! Meanwhile, he appeared on BBC Devon on Sunday morning with Toby Buckland and the story has showned up on the Fox News and the New York Post websites.