Tomatoes are one of the most loved vegetables to be grown throughout the world.Read more to learn about this.
- Common name: Tomato
- Botanical name: Lycopersicon esculentum
- Indian names: Tamatar (Hindi), Takkali (Tamil)
- Vegetable type: Fruit vegetable
- Varieties: Cherry, Plum, Oblate, Beefstake, Marglobe, Sachriya.
First cultivated in Mexico, tomatoes are even celebrated in a wild Spanish festival of “La Tomatina”, where participants throw tomatoes at each other. Tomatoes also come in colors other than red, such as yellow, orange, pink, purple, green and even black! Did you know that India is the largest producer of tomatoes after China?
Tomatoes are one of the chefs’ favorite as it can be eaten raw in salads, boiled for preparing soup, fried for its mildly acidic flavor in a vegetable dish or processed for preparing ketchup, pickle or juice. Tomatoes are rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, particularly Vitamin A and C. It helps prevent obesity, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases and even cancer, according to some studies.
- Life-cycle: Perennial
- Height: about 6 to 10 feet
- Width/Spacing: 18 to 24 inches (about 50 cm)
- Flowering season: about 1 to 2 months after sowing, during April to October
- Flower: yellow in color with 5 lobes
- Foliage: vining plant with compound leaves
Planting/Growing Tomato details:
- Sunlight: partial sun/shade – around 3-4 hours of morning/evening sunlight with some afternoon shade.
- Water: regularly- whenever top-soil turns dry. Keep the soil moist but not soggy, to avoid fungal-diseases which can develop due to over-watering.
- Sowing season: during warm seasons, preferably between March to June. Start seeds indoors about 6 to 8 weeks before the spring season, as seeds require cool climate to germinate.
- Sowing method: Till the soil about 1 foot deep and add some organic fertilizer like manure or compost. Transplant the seedlings about 2 feet apart and sprinkle some water gently to keep the soil moist.
Tomatoes can be grown in pots (about 8 inches in diameter), growing bags, troughs, hanging baskets as well as directly in ground. They prefer a slightly acidic soil (pH about 6.5) to grow in, for best supply of nutrients. Germinate seeds indoors for better germination rate and a healthy harvest. Apply some mulch around the tomato plants to prevent weeds from growing near it, as well as to keep the soil moist.
Once the tomato plant reaches almost a foot high; stake it using a bamboo cane or any other sturdy support, which is at least 5 feet tall. One can even develop a trellis around the plant as it tends to become bushy with time. Feed the tomatoes every 10 to 14 days with balanced fertilizer like compost, manure or Panchagavya.
Companion plants: Tomatoes also serve as companion plants for a large variety of crops, popularly carrots, besides parsley, dill, onion, chives, garlic, basil, oregano and asparagus.
Usually hybrid varieties are more disease-resistant than heirloom varieties. Tomatoes are prone to pests like whiteflies and aphids. Humid conditions due to overwatering or low light may cause fungal diseases like Tomato blight or mould to develop. Treat the plant using organic pesticides like Neem oil.
Cracking: Sometimes when a fruit grows too quickly, it causes “cracking” of its skin, due to uneven watering especially during rainy periods. Cracking invites fungus to develop. Ensure constant moisture-levels by mulching the soil. Also, remove the infected fruit before the fungal growth spreads to other parts of the plant.
Fruit appears after about 60 days since sowing the plant. Harvest the fruit once it is ripe and fully colored, while being firm. However, take care that the fruit is not overly ripe as it gets too soft and may rot. One can also choose to ripen the greenish fruit indoors by storing it next to bananas or by laying it with straws and newspaper, in a cool and dry place.
- By seeds: Collect seeds from a fully ripe fruit of an heirloom variety tomato plant. Dry the seeds in sun before sowing it.
From the smallest of gardens or even an apartment with a window-box, it is worth growing at least one tomato plant for the pleasure it will give you. One of the happiest moments of life is watching your green tomato turn red.
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