For many years the tomato was classified as a vegetable. Not for scientific reasons, but for reasons that simply made sense. Most fruits you simply pick up and eat, such as an apple or an orange, but as for the tomato, not many pick up a beefsteak or big boy hybrid and start munching, my wife excluded, she loves to eat tomatoes.
Tomatoes are botanically classified as a fruit but because of their savory flavor many still refer to this popular food as a vegetable. Tomatoes are so popular in the home vegetable garden that the USDA has noted that over eighty percent of all home vegetable gardens grow some variety of tomato, and that is more than twice the amount of the next most popular vegetable the cucumber. We’ll talk about the cucumber in a future article or podcast.
With all of this said, how well do you really know the tomato and what you are growing? Here are ten facts pieced together that you’ll find interesting that will make you look at the tomatoes you grow in your home vegetable garden a little differently. Yes, there will be a test on this, so listen carefully.
The tomato is part of the nightshade family and that makes the tomato a close relative to tobacco. If you ever want to think of two plants that are worlds apart in use this is probably it. Since they are so closely related, tomatoes are susceptible to various diseases that are tobacco related such as the tobacco mosaic virus.
Have you ever wondered why you might not be having success with growing tomatoes on your patio? It could be that your plants are not receiving the full sun they need in order to grow. I read a story once where tomato plants grew extraordinary large in Alaska due to the twenty four hour sunlight. Tomatoes require sun and lots of it. The more you give them the happier they will be.
Have you ever taken a pH reading of your soil where you plant your tomatoes? If not you should definitely do it. Tomatoes love the soil to be a bit more acidic then most vegetables. A soil level in the 5.8 to 7.0 range would be ideal. You can get a pH soil test kit from your local home or garden center for less than four dollars.
Stop! Before you plant another tomato seed what are the temperatures like in your area? Tomatoes like hot weather. The more hot and humid it is, the better it will be for the tomato. It’s probably why we do so well with tomatoes here in NJ. Start your tomato seeds indoors and when the temps remain steady at 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 55 degrees Fahrenheit at night you can move them outside.
Many people think the tomato is native to China since they are the world’s largest producer of them. However, early historical recordings show the tomato originating in South America. Where does the USA rank as far as total tomato production? The USA ranks a distant second to China producing over twelve million tons of tomatoes per year.
Maybe you aren’t a fan of large tomato varieties such as the beefsteak, or even the small ones such as cherry or grape. You are in luck. You don’t even have to be a fan of the red ones. There are over 7,500 varieties of tomatoes you can choose to grow that range in size, shape and color. It truly is a vegetable, er um, fruit, that gives you plenty of options to choose from.
Some 500 years ago, the tomato was believed to be poisonous. Today we could not even imagine life without it. It is used in soups, sandwiches, pasta dishes, you name it. However even though the tomato fruit is edible, the leaves, stems and green unripe fruit contain a poisonous alkaloid called tomatine. Because the traces of tomatine are so small it is basically harmless to humans and the reason why fried green tomatoes are ok for consumption. Just don’t eat large quantities of them raw.
So there you have it ten fun filled facts about the tomato you may not have known before. After learning these tidbits you may not look at the tomato plants in your garden the same, ever again.
About the Author
Mike is the author of the book ”Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person” and the administrator for the largest vegetable gardening group on Facebook. Mike can be reached via his website AveragePersonGardening.com.