Alicante Tomato Overview
|Official Plant Name||Solanum Lycopersicum|
|Common Name(s)||Alicante Tomato|
|Toxicity||Toxic except for fruits|
|Foliage||Tomato vines – slight differences depending on cultivar|
|When To Sow Indoors||January, February, March, April|
|When To Plant Out||May, June|
|Harvesting Months||June, July, August, September, October|
|When To Prune||July, August, September|
Up to 1.4M
June – September
Fertile loam is ideal
Moist but well drained
Neutral / Mildly Acidic
Alicante tomatoes are one of the most common tomato varieties grown by home gardeners.
But are they the right variety for you? In this article, we will delve a little deeper and take a look at this particular cultivar and its characteristics. Read on to find out more about Alicante tomato plants, and how to care for them and grow them in your garden.
What are Alicante Tomatoes?
Alicante tomatoes are a popular red tomato variety. The fruits are produced relatively abundantly and are deep red, and mid-sized. They have a typical, traditional tomato taste and texture and are considered to be relatively sweet.
These tomatoes have been awarded with an RHS Award of Garden Merit. They are regarded as a superior variety upon which gardeners experienced and novice can depend.
Alicante tomatoes are cordon type tomato plants, which means that they are best grown as a cordon, on support structures. They can grow up to around 2m in height, with a spread of around 50cm.
The Pros of Alicante Tomato Plants
- They tend to germinate and crop fairly reliably, even for those who are not necessarily the most experienced or green-fingered of gardeners.
- This tomato variety can be grown in a greenhouse or polytunnel, or outdoors in a suitable spot.
- This is an affordable option, typically these seeds are cheaper to purchase than F1 seeds.
- It is easy to get hold of seeds or plants for this variety wherever you live in the UK, since this is such a common variety.
- And as an open-pollinated variety, you can save seeds from your Alicante tomatoes and won’t necessarily have to buy more seeds next year.
- These particular tomatoes taste good, and have a good texture. They can be used raw or cooked in a range of different ways and are a multi-purpose tomato type, unlike other tomatoes which are usually only used in specific ways.
The Cons of Alicante Tomato Plants
- Like many other tomato varieties, Alicante is not blight resistant, and can succumb to this fungal disease and encounter a range of other problems. (F1 options can sometimes have greater resistance.)
- Since this is a very common variety, it might not be as interesting or fun to grow as more unusual heritage tomato varieties. It does not differ as dramatically from store-bought tomatoes as some other varieties you could try.
- As this is a cordon type, it requires a support structure, and a little more work is involved than with a bush type.
- While they are a relatively early cropping variety, there are varieties which will more reliably produce a yield for areas with a shorter growing season.
Buying Alicante Seeds or Plants
Alicante seeds are ubiquitous here in the UK and you should have no trouble getting hold of some seeds. If you have left it too late and would still like to grow tomatoes this year, you can also fairly easily find pot-grown Alicante tomato plants from local garden centres or online.
Where To Grow Alicante Tomato Plants
As mentioned above, one of the good things about this variety is that they can be grown in a greenhouse or polytunnel, or outdoors in a sunny and sheltered spot.
Note that while cordon tomatoes can be grown in containers, this vigorous and tall variety does not necessarily lend itself to small-scale container growing. However, it can be grown in grow bags or other containers below a support structure so the plants can be cordoned as they grow.
Sowing Alicante Tomatoes
Alicante tomatoes, like other tomato varieties, are typically sown in late winter or early spring. Usually, they are sown between February and April in the UK. As mentioned above, for those who have not yet sown tomatoes this year, there is the option of choosing pot-grown starter plants. This can also be an option where it is difficult for you to sow seeds indoors before the last frost date in your area.
Care Tips for Alicante Tomato Plants
While some ‘cordon tomatoes’ do not necessarily absolutely have to be grown in this way, I have grown Alicante tomatoes as cordon plants, and without cordoning and I would definitely say that from my experience, cordoning does definitely yield the best results for this heritage tomato variety.
Cordoning simply involves tying in the plant to a string, wire or stake as they grow, and pinching off side shoots to focus on one central leader. I grow Alicante tomatoes in my polytunnel some years, and have lengths of wire between the crop bars. I tie jute twine to these wires, and tie in the tomatoes to these lengths of twine as they grow.
When planting out Alicante tomato plants, bury each one a little deeper in the soil than it was in its pot. This also encourages stronger root systems, which is especially important for cordoned tomato plants. Make sure you harden off tomatoes grown indoors, and keep an eye on the weather. Only plant out once the weather has reliably warmed and there is no longer any risk of frost.
As with other tomatoes, it is important to make sure that you water deeply and less frequently, rather than little and often. This encourages the plants to form stronger and deeper root systems. Make sure that you water at the base of the plant, rather that watering from above. While some years, late blight cannot be avoided, reducing wetting of foliage can reduce the chances of a severe blight infestation taking hold.
Alicante tomatoes are a vigorous variety and tomatoes are pretty ‘hungry’ plants. Make sure you have provided them with fertile growing conditions.
I tend to mulch newly planted tomatoes with comfrey leaves and other potassium rich dynamic accumulator plants like Chenopodium album (Lambsquarters/ Fat hen).
I also feed the tomato plants with a comfrey liquid feed during flowering, and again once the fruits have begun to form.
With tomatoes, it is important to use a potash rich fertilizer rather than one which is too high in nitrogen. Since excess nitrogen can encourage foliage growth at the expense of flowers and fruit.
Alicante tomatoes can be ready for harvesting from around July, and will often crop right through to October. (Remain vigilant and look out for blight during late summer.)
Pick tomatoes as they mature.
Remember, since Alicante is an heirloom or heritage tomato variety, open-pollinated and not an F1 hybrid, you can save the seeds from your tomatoes to sow next year.
To save the seeds, choose a healthy, fully ripe red tomato. Cut it open, and scoop out the seeds into a small jar of water. Leave the seeds in the water for a few days and mould will form. This helps the gelatinous seed coating to break down, improving chances of successful germination.
Tip out the seeds into a sieve and run it under a tap to wash the mould away and clean the seeds thoroughly, Then place them on a paper towel to dry thoroughly before you store them in an paper envelop in a cool, dark place until next year.
With Alicante, it is likely that you will have some green tomatoes yet to ripen at the end of the growing season. But there are certain things you can do to get green tomatoes to ripen on the plant.
- Increase temperatures around the tomatoes, and give them extra protection.
- Place bananas (or other ripening fruit) beneath the tomato plants. These give off ethylene gas which will make tomatoes ripen more quickly. Concentrate this gas by covering the plants if you can.
- Reduce watering.
- Trim off lower foliage, new flowers and tiny fruits with no chance of ripening in time.
- Give the tomato plants a quick tug to loosen their roots and focus them on fruit ripening.
If all else fails, you can still ripen tomatoes indoors as long as they are full sized, even if they are still mostly green. Try to keep them on the vine for the best flavour. Pull up the plant and hang it somewhere warm. If there is other ripening fruit nearby, this will speed up the process.
Even if you are still left with some green tomatoes at the end of the season, it is worthwhile remembering that you can still use these in a range of recipes. Green tomato chutney and green tomato salsa are just two of the more common options.
A permaculture garden designer, sustainability consultant and freelance writer, Elizabeth works as an advocate for positive change. She aims to inspire others to reconnect with nature and live in a more eco-friendly way. She also tries to practice what she preaches as she tends her own forest garden, polyculture beds and polytunnel. See her personal website here.