Thanks to an anonymous donation and the work of a dedicated trust, hundreds of tomato plants will be given away at the Whanganui River Markets on October 13.

Each person will be given two plants in pots, Heritage Food Crops Research Trust founder and director Mark Christensen said.

He advises people to arrive when the markets start at 8.30am, so they don't miss out.

The tomato plants will be of four varieties, all with golden-orange fruit.


Two will be prolific croppers with fruit the size of golf balls, and the other two will have bigger fruit.

They have been grown on contract at Wanganui Garden Centre, with an unnamed local person paying the cost.

The trust has been researching tomatoes for 12 years, Christensen said.

It found out that golden-orange tomatoes were high in tetra-cis-lycopene, an especially beneficial antioxidant that is readily absorbed when the tomatoes are eaten raw.

Golden-orange tomato varieties can be traced back to types grown in Mexico before 1500.

Christensen works as an accountant, but his food crop research is taking over his life. He spends only three days a week in the office now.

The rest of the time he grows a variety of trial crops on 2ha in Springvale, with 10 to 15 volunteers joining him on Mondays.

He discovered an apple he believes to have extra health-giving qualities, grew it and researched it.

Newly named Monty's Surprise, it is now widely propagated and hundreds of the young trees have been given away to Whanganui people.

Christensen is now experimenting with seedlings from a Monty's Surprise, cross pollinated with another tree.

He found a tree with a good orchard shape and a good tasting fruit that also has anti-inflammatory properties.

It has been named Remarkable through a competition run in the Organic New Zealand magazine, and he's now experimenting with its seedlings.

"We try to work with mother nature, rather than trying to control the process. It's quite exciting when you allow nature to do its job," he said.

The trust is also growing crimson-flowered broad beans, peaches from the stones of promising trees, plums, pears, apples, garlic, macadamias and some heritage wheat varieties.