The Smooth Skin Geraldton Tomato is a small to medium sized, round, red tomato with very firm and sweet flesh. It has been cultivated, using local seeds, in Western Australia since 1927 in the towns of Geraldton, Glenfield, Waggrakine, Utakarra, Moonyoonooka and Bluff Point.
Previously, in 1920, Chinese immigrants and retired Japanese pearl divers had begun cultivating a type of tomato with wrinkled skin, which flourished in the favourable local climate and allowed for the production of tomatoes during the winter months, from May to November. In the early 1920’s George Keyworth Allen, a local farmer, began experimenting with other imported varieties of tomatoes and in 1927 settled on a smooth skin variety suitable for the Geraldton area. However, the fruit of this tomato was very small and Keyworth Allen spent some time cross-breeding with a larger tomato until eventually he produced a variety which came to be known as the ‘Geraldton smooth skin’.
The production of this tomato peaked in 1958 when Geraldton was exporting large quantities to a value of around 300,000 British pounds. In order to avoid spoilage, the tomatoes were transported without the use of refrigeration to markets in Perth, that would buy the tomatoes in a semi-ripe state, and markets in Melbourne and Singapore that would buy them when they were still green.
At this time there were more than 200 commercial tomato growers in the Geraldton area and they had established a Tomato Growers Association of which Mr Keyworth Allen was a lifetime member.
Since the advent of glasshouses in Melbourne and Adelaide that allow year round tomato production, the market for the Geradton Smooth Skin has greatly diminished. It is estimated that only 15 tonnes of Smooth Skin Geraldton tomatoes are grown today by a few local producers in the Geraldton suburb of Drummond, who sell their product from roadside stalls. The advance of urbanization in areas that were traditionally used to produce this tomato, and the fact that they are labour intensive, have also contributed to the variety being on the verge of extinction. The Smooth Skin Geraldton is planted and picked by hand, making it less profitable for the producer when compared to the competitive price of industrialised and machine picked tomatoes.