Would you risk a £5,000 fine for “White Princess”?
Go on, I dare you.
Melting, and sumptuously tasty, she is. All dressed in red.
She’s a tomato, and the seeds to this variety are illegal. You can only get her through illegal tomato seed dealers, a new branch of criminal enterprise to be sure, but not altogether surprising considering a combination of UK and EU regulations, designed with a mixture of motives, but the main one seems to be corporate protection.
As usual the result of all this is a black market which is a good thing, because EU regulations are well on the way to smashing the life out of European food.
Most of us buy our tomatoes from supermarkets. They’re convenient, but their cool, watery flavour is disappointingly bland. If you’re willing to pay double, you can sometimes buy tomatoes that actually taste of something from the supermarkets’ posh ranges. But even these are difficult to get excited about.
Being Australian, my tomatoes are fine, thanks. But a combination of local cunning and US trading nous come to the rescue of the British gardener.
Fortunately, for those who prefer their tomatoes a little more, well, tomatoey, there is an alternative to this inexorable slide into strip-lit homogeneity. All over the country, guerrilla bands of disgruntled gardeners are meeting under cover of darkness to exchange or even sell contraband seed. “Gardeners are reasonably law-abiding people,” says Bob Flowerdew, the Gardeners’ Question Time panellist and author of books about growing vegetables. “But there are ways of getting round the law…”
Some companies in America, for example, are cashing in on our tomato drought. At www.seedfest.co.uk, Kelley Spurling sells seeds of hundreds of varieties that are illegal in Britain from his farm in Oregon. “It would look a bit ridiculous to imprison someone for having the wrong tomatoes,” he says.
Let’s not make any assumpions there. The British government isn’t deterred by looking ridiculous.
Still, it’s encouraging that whereever there’s a regulator, there’s a way round it when it takes more then it’s due.
Via David Carr at Samizdata.net