Growing tomatoes

Sylvia By Sylvia , 14th Feb 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Gardening>Vegetables

Tomato is a wonderful vegetable with many health benefitting qualities. Nothing can beat the flavour of home grown tomatoes freshly picked from your own vines.

Grow your own tomatoes

The tomato belongs to the nightshade family same as the chilli peppers, aubergines, potato... etc. Native to Central America, it was grown for centuries by the Aztecs and introduced all over the world by the Spanish explorers during their explorations.

I have found the tomato to be a hardy plant that needs a lot of sun. Keep them well fed and watered more than any other crop to gain a useful harvest. They are more susceptible to the weather rather than diseases and insect attack. Growing them outdoors does have some risk, but with careful attention to the weather those risks can be minimised. To produce successfully it is to know when the best time to start planting is. I lost a whole crop of tomatoes to one night’s frost. This could have been averted if it was protected with covers. Unfortunately we were not prepared and did not expect it to happen.

Our tomatoes were grown organically. We kept insects and diseases at bay with the application of Kohomba seed emulsion also referred to as Neem in India. The locally developed variety known as Thilina is a strong cultivar to grow. The plants are sturdy and the fruit firm. In Sri Lanka, this variety is more suitable to our climatic conditions than imported varieties.

Tomatoes are also fond of swaying in the wind, as this encourages and produces strong and sturdy stems.

Tomato Fruit Types
There are thousands of varied tomato fruit types as well as plant types. Here are some of the major fruit types:
• Beefsteak – These are a large version of the normal tomato taking a longer time to mature and ripen owing to their large size. Mainly suitable for growing in a greenhouse and suspended with string.
• Cherry – This is just a smaller version of the normal tomato, and is about the size of a marble. Bushy plants which fruits in clusters.
• Marmande –the tastiest of the lot. They are large and irregular shaped fruit.
• Oxheart – the fruit are usually firm fleshed and cone shaped with good flavour.
• Plum – these are firm with thick skins oval shaped fruit ideal for canning and transport well.
• Standard – these are the ‘normal’ tomato, which are spherical in shape, measuring around an inch to an inch and a half in diameter.

Tomato Colours
There are countless thousands of cultivars; varieties of different sizes and types, which are either hybrid, genetically modified or organic. Most cultivars are the red fruit. However, a great number of them are orange, green, red – green, yellow, purple, pink, or even found in white. However the colour has nothing to do with flavour. Flavour is more from the variety and not the colour.

Types of Plants
The Intermediate types are the most popularly grown tomatoes. These are propped up by tying to stakes or suspended on strings. The side shoots are generally trimmed to encourage sturdy growth and fruit set.

Locally hybridized Tomato Variety – Thilina is the most suitable and acclimatised variety to grow. These don’t need to be trimmed, but need a little support especially when fruit is set.

Dwarf bush type produces the cherry tomato. Due to their delicate nature, this is not very popular as it is difficult to transport to the market. They are ideally grown in hanging baskets.

Heirloom tomatoes are the tomatoes of the old world which are becoming progressively more popular, predominantly among organic producers, since they produce more natural and flavourful fruits.

Planting facts
Seeds can be sown directly in the permanent position or in nursery beds and transplanted when they are a few inches tall when they get their first set of true leaves. Don’t over crowd seedlings space them out and give them enough room to grow.
Transplanting: Plant them deep. Tomato plants will throw roots along their stems so the deeper they are planted the better. They may even be planted sideways; they will straighten up growing towards the sun.

Mulch can be applied at a later date. Mulch helps in retaining moisture.
Trimming: remove the bottom leaves as these can get infected from soil borne diseases such as fungus and spread to the rest of the plant. Pinch off shoots that may appear between a branch and the main stem. These will not bear flowers and will only take up the energy from the plant.

Water copiously: tomato plants are heavy feeders and take up plenty of water.

Health benefits of Tomato
 Very low in calories and fats; but rich source of dietary fibre, minerals, vitamins; recommended in controlling cholesterol and weight reduction programs.
 The antioxidants present in tomatoes are found to be protective against many cancers including endometrial, prostate, colon, breast, lung and pancreatic cancers.
 Phyto- chemicals present in tomatoes such as Lycopene and carotenoids help to protect important structures in the body and cells from oxygen free radicals. Red varieties of tomatoes are especially rich in the all powerful flavonoid antioxidant lycopene. Studies have shown that lycopene protects skin damage from UV rays and from prostate cancer.
 Zeaxanthin, which is another flavonoid compound, helps protect eyes from "age related macular disease" (ARMD) in the elderly persons by filtering harmful ultra-violet rays.
 Contains very good levels of vitamin A, and flavonoid anti-oxidants such as alpha and beta carotenes, xanthin and lutein. These compounds are known to have antioxidant properties and are essential for vision. Vitamin A is also required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin. Consumption of natural vegetables and fruits rich in flavonoids helps to protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
 In addition, they are also a good source of antioxidant vitamin-C (provide 21% of recommended daily levels per 100 g); consumption of foods rich in vitamin C helps body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful free radicals.
 Fresh tomato is very rich in potassium. Potassium in an important component of cell and body fluids, helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure.
 They are also a good source of foliate, iron, calcium, manganese and other minerals.


Tomato, Tomato Care, Tomato Plant Care And Feeding, Tomato Plants Care, Tomatoes

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author avatar Sylvia
I like to write, I write poetry and prose. I write on nature, the environment, in fact I write on any subject.

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author avatar Rose*
14th Aug 2014 (#)

Don't forget you can make chutney from leftover green tomatoes that won't ripen at the end of the season

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author avatar Sylvia
14th Aug 2014 (#)

Thank you Rose! Yes I am aware of that and many other things you can do to preserve them for "out of season" use.

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