Tomatoes are outstanding for cooking, health properties and even for their beauty. Originating from South America, there are few places or cultures in the world where they are not an everyday dietary staple.
Like the pepper, the tomato is botanically a fruit, though it is used in culinary dishes as a vegetable. In fact, its name means “the swelling fruit”. It is full of flavor and is extremely versatile as an ingredient. If you choose to grow tomatoes in your garden, get ready for a fabulous harvest, as the average plant yields as much as a couple trips to the grocery store.
Tomatoes are one of the easiest vegetables to grow. They can be purchased and planted as seeds, seedlings, or small plants and in very little time, be producing fruit. Make sure that the crops are rotated and that tomatoes are not planted where tomatoes were just harvested the prior year. This will guard against early blight and bacterial spot.
If you are planning on purchasing tomato plants and planting them in containers or the ground, the soil should be free of debris, well drained and fertilized. Plant your seedlings up to the first true leaves.
The sun should shine on the plants in an airy, open place for at least ten hours a day. Water your tomato plants once a week, deeply during the hot sunny summer months. During cooler temperatures of summer where the sun is not so hot, watering is not as important. Tomato plants don’t need constant wet soil.
Make sure to prune the branches that are non-fruiting, allowing the energy of the plant to go to produce larger tomatoes. Tomato plants grow well within tomato cages as well as stalked with a six-foot stake. Pick tomatoes when they are ripe.
Early blight is always a threat to tomatoes, affecting the leaves of the plant. Late blight is also threatening, affecting the fruit and leaves. Both can be fought with fungicides. Blossom end rot is a common problem with tomatoes and causes the fruit to have a hard brown patch of rot on the underside.
Tomato hornworms are another pest to watch for, but relatively easy to control. Fruit worms are not as easy to control, requiring you to destroy the infected fruit as your only solution to the problem. Fruitworms are moth larvae which eat the tomato from within.
Health Benefits of Growing Your Own Food
Although tomatoes are ninety-five percent water, they still offer an incredible amount of nutrients and vitamins. They are rich in the antioxidant lycopene, as well as vitamin A, C, and K. Tomatoes can also reduce urinary tract infections and bladder cancer, because they are a diuretic. This helps in eliminating toxins from the body, along with salt, excess water and a bit of fat.
Tomatoes aid in digestion, help relieve hypertension, and improve vision. Surprisingly, they have been shown to reduce the effects of carcinogens. One of the most pleasant benefits of growing your own tomatoes is the daily blossom and ripening of the tomatoes, yielding a daily harvest.