Fruit and vegetables with a history

Bunch of small red tomatoes on the vine.

Currant tomatoes growing in the kitchen garden at Vaucluse House. Photo Anita Rayner © Sydney Living Museums. Currant tomatoes growing in the kitchen garden at Vaucluse House. Photo Anita Rayner © Sydney Living Museums.

The kitchen garden at Vaucluse House boasts an impressive variety of fruit and vegetables year round. Here are just a few varieties currently growing and an insight into their back stories. 

Cardoon

This handsome plant (see below) growing in the Vaucluse House kitchen garden is a Cardoon. Belonging to the same family as the artichoke it was a favourite in Victorian England where it was grown as a vegetable. Unlike the artichoke, it is the stems that are eaten like celery. Although it is still grown as a vegetable in many parts of Europe, the striking silvery leaves make it a great ornamental plant too.

Pineapples

Many people are surprised when they see pineapples growing in the Vaucluse House kitchen garden. 'I thought they only grow in Queensland!' they say. In a sunny, well drained spot protected from frost pineapples can do well in Sydney.

Once brought to Europe from South America in the mid 17th century, the fruit were highly prized. Only the wealthy could afford to grow them in compost-heat controlled glass houses. People even took them to parties to impress their friends!

Luckily here in warmer climes, everyone can have one. If you remove the top of the fruit, dry it out for a week or so, put it in a pot, plant it out once roots have formed, you'll be eating your own pineapple in two years. Yes, two years. Sorry about that! The good news is that a pineapple needs little care as it is a bromeliad and therefore very tough.

Our pineapples are an old variety called Small rough. They fruit reliably every summer and are super sweet with little acid.

Currant tomato

Another favourite growing the kitchen garden at Vaucluse House is the Currant tomato. Originally hailing from South America and first being described by Carl Linnaeus in 1763. Cherry tomatoes were listed as being propagated in the Sydney Botanic Gardens in 1827.

Despite what some gardeners may tell you, the bigger tomatoes actually need a bit of work to end up on your plate unscathed by grubs, disease and deficiencies. Not so with these ones. Currant tomatoes are only 8-12mm in size and grow on a low rambling vine. They fruit prolifically and self-seed so readily we have to pull them out where we don't want them to grow. They are still fruiting now in May!

They need around one metre square if left to ramble (you can trellis them if you want), a sunny spot and some compost.

Never bothered by grubs or fungus, they are the absolute best and tasty to boot. Sure, you may need 20 of them to fill a sandwich but in a salad or on their own, they are a mouth popping sensation. And kids love them because they're so little and look like lollies. I can't recommend them highly enough as a productive, delicious tomato that looks after itself.

  • Large leafy green plant with house in background.

    Cardoon

    Cardoon growing in the kitchen garden at Vaucluse House. Photo Anita Rayner © Sydney Living Museums.

  • Rows of pineapple plants.

    Pineapples

    Pineapples growing in the kitchen garden at Vaucluse House. Photo Anita Rayner © Sydney Living Museums

  • Vine growing on triangular trellis.

    Currant tomato vine

    Currant tomatoes growing in the kitchen garden at Vaucluse House. Photo Anita Rayner © Sydney Living Museums.

About the author

Horticulturist Anita Rayner holding a melon in the kitchen garden at Vaucluse House

Anita Rayner

Horticulturist

At Vaucluse House, you’ll find Anita in the kitchen garden fuelling her love for growing heirloom melons, curly zucchinis and enormous pumpkins.