Tomato (solanum lycopersicum)

Tomatoes 02Why plant
Easy to grow from seed, even your own seed from the previous year.

Don’t need a big garden to grow… just a few pots on a patio look really attractive and will give a steady supply throughout late summer.

Forget those supermarket varieties… nothing tastes as good as home grown tomatoes! Most supermarkets tomatoes are picked while unripe and artificially ripened, reducing their health properties.

Interesting uses
None other than for health and cooking.

The tomato is native to South America, probably originating in the highlands of Peru. Although the exact date of domestication is not known there is evidence tomatoes being consumed by prehistoric humans.

It is believed the tomato was first introduced to Europe by the explorers such as Cortez and Columbus in the 15th and 16th centuries and was first grown in England in the 1590s. By the mid 1700s tomatoes were widely eaten in Britain.

Health benefits
Various tomato components are believed to work together to produce  health benefits. These include aiding in the development of healthy teeth, bones, skin and hair; lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels and possibly reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and some cancers. Tomatoes are high in Vitamin C, which acts as an antioxidant. The red colour of a tomato comes from its lycopene content, which is also believed to reduce the risk of certain types of cancer.

Tomatoes nutrientsSome tomato components are more easily absorbed by the body when tomatoes are heated, either during cooking or processing. In addition adding small amounts of oil to tomatoes, for example in a salad, helps the body absorb the nutrients better. Processed tomato products such as tomato sauce and tomato paste may contain more health benefits than raw tomatoes.


  • Beef Tomatoes - The largest of the tomato varieties, these have a sweet dense red flesh. Ideal for stuffing, slicing or cooking with.
  • Cherry Tomatoes - Much smaller than other tomato varieties with a very intense sweet flavour. Delicious as a lunchbox snack, in salads or roasted.
  • Sungold Tomatoes - A much more delicate flavour than the traditional cherry, very juicy and a lovely orange colour which looks great in salads or as a garnish.
  • Plum tomatoes - Egg-shaped tomatoes with a meaty flesh and concentrated flavour, which makes them especially well-suited to cooking. They are available in various sizes including baby. Plum tomatoes are the most popular variety for canning.

Tomatoes can be grown from seed as early as January so long as you can provide enough heat (50 degrees Fahrenheit, or 10 degrees centigrade) and light. Plant seeds 1 inch (2.5 centimetres) apart just under the compost surface in seed trays or small pots and cover, for example using clingfilm. They should start appearing in seven to ten days.

Once large enough to handle move them individually into 3 inch (8 centimetre) pots until they’re about 5 inches (15 centimetres) tall, when they should be moved to their final positions.

Tomatoes are susceptible to frost damage, so if growing outside wait until all risk of frost has passed… early April at the earliest. Plant about 2 feet apart, deeper than they were in the plot since the plant will grow additional roots along the buried stem.

Whether growing indoors or out the plants will need support. You can stake with canes, or alternatively place posts either end of the row with a cross beam along the top and use string loosely tied from the base of each plant to the cross beam. Twist the string around the plant stem as it grows. In a greenhouse the string can be attached to the roof frame.

If growing in pots ideally use 12 inch, although you can use smaller.

As the plants grow remove additional shoots that seem to appear almost daily where each leaf meets the stem… at this stage you want all the plant’s energy to be focused on growing taller.
Once the plants are about 3 feet tall remove the leaves from the bottom 1 foot of the plant to prevent fungus problems and improve ventilation.

Water deeply and regularly while the plants are growing. Irregular watering at this stage is a common cause of failure. Once the fruit begins to ripen lessening the water will coax the plant into concentrating its sugars. Don’t withhold water so much that the plants wilt and become stressed or they’ll drop their blossoms and possibly their fruit.

Feed with fertilisers soon as the first tiny fruit begin to appear and repeat every two weeks until harvesting. Why not try making nettle fertiliser since this is very good for tomatoes.

With care greenhouse tomatoes will fruit right through to November. Towards the end of the season remove all leaves to let maximum light reach the fruit. If you want to grow the biggest tomatoes stop fruiting by removing the growing tip at the top of the plant when you’ve got up to seven levels or trusses of fruit.


Grilled pesto tomatoes on toast

Honey and thyme tomatoes

Golden goat's cheese tomatoes

Stuffed summer tomatoes

Couscous stuffed beef tomatoes

Common problems
  • Fruit with black sunken areas on the blossom end are a sign of blossom-end rot caused by a calcium deficiency. This can be aggravated by drought or uneven watering, root damage or excess nitrogen. Consistent watering will help. The problem usually occurs on just a small number of fruit, especially at the beginning of the harvest, so once moisture conditions stabilise the rest of the fruit will be fine.
  • If only a few flowers form on your tomato plants or the flowers drop before setting fruit this is due to excess nitrogen, too little sun, night temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit or drought stress. Be sure plants get a full day of sunlight and keep the soil evenly moist throughout the season.
  • Dark, concentrically ringed spots that cover the lower leaves and stems are a sign of early blight. Limit the spread of the disease by not getting water on the leaves when watering and not handling plants when they are wet.
  • Water-soaked patches on fruit that turn brown, dry and papery are a sign of late blight. Fruit might be spotted as well and stems might have blackened areas. To control late blight follow the same program of control as for early blight.
  • Cracks in fruit are generally caused by uneven watering. Use mulch to keep the soil moist throughout the season.
  • Yellowed, distorted and curled leaves may simply be a sign of an infestation of aphids. Check for signs of aphids on the undersides of leaves or clustered on new growth. Aphids are easily combated with a strong jet of water or just rub them off with your hands.
  • There is nothing worse than picking a tomato and finding a slug happily working its way through it. Early morning or evening thoroughly check all plants and possible hiding places to remove them.

1 comment:

  1. Tomatoes are very good for you, i started eating more when i learnt they helped by keeping your prostate healthy.


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