Tomatoes are such a staple in today’s diet it is tough to believe there was a time when this versatile fruit was formerly regarded as poisonous. Thankfully this member of the nightshade family was known for centuries now to be a tasty and healthy addition to our diet and is currently among the most popular garden vegetables.
Not easy to grow?
For a lot of individuals, tomatoes are the most difficult, yet desired, vegetable crop to grow. But a ripe, succulent homegrown tomato is so yummy and healthy, people will go to great lengths to make as many as possible in their own gardens. One look at the pale, hard, orange baseballs that grocery stores pass off as berries will also explain why so many anglers eagerly anticipate the first ripe tomato in their own gardens.
Considering that berries are a tropical fruit native to South America, it is amazing that we can grow them at all in northern climates. Yes, the tomato is a fruit as it grows on a vine. There are literally hundreds of tomato varieties out there to pick from but there are only two kinds of tomato vines; determinate and indeterminate.
Determinate tomato varieties develop more as a bush, increasing only to a specific height and generating most of their fruit all at once. Determinate varieties are most acceptable for gardeners that are interested in canning berries because the harvest will ripen over a relatively short time period. Determinate tomato varieties are also a great selection for gardeners with limited space available, and some determinate varieties are ideal for container growing and are an outstanding selection for the terrace garden.
Determinate tomato plants should not be pruned, as this will severely restrict the amount of blossom sets the plant could produce, thus reducing the amount of berries on the plant. However, an indeterminate variety will keep growing and will keep producing fruit for the whole life of the plant, or until frost. Each new pair of blossoms will grow further up the blossom as the plant develops. Indeterminate tomato plants also take somewhat more care to maintain the crops manageable in the backyard.
So as to keep these huge plants out of sprawling all over the floor and creating an impenetrable mass of foliage, indeterminate tomato varieties should be pruned and trellised. A tomato plant that’s restricted to producing on just two to four primary stems will still produce loads of fruit and the berries will tend to grow bigger than those within an unpruned plant.
Make it prune!
To prune an indeterminate tomato plant, simply pinch off the small shoots, or “suckers” that grow from the main stem from the crotch between the stem and every leaf branch. Each one of those suckers can grow to become another huge stem and would grow its own berries and finally grow its suckers. But you don’t need your tomato plant to squander time and energy by growing those suckers. By pruning off nearly all of them, the plant will devote more energy to producing ripe, juicy tomatoes.
Since you’ll need more than one major stem for tomato production, permit the suckers nearest the base of the plant to grow. These will have more blossoms and will be much easier to trellis than suckers that sprout higher up on the plant. Pruning will also enhance air circulation through the plant that could help prevent disease issues, particularly in humid weather.
Once you decide whether to grow determinate or indeterminate tomato varieties, it is time to research the garden facilities or seed catalogs to discover the seeds or plants which will produce your prized fruit. Although some of the more educated garden centers are currently selling a wider assortment of tomato plants, many still provide just some of the older standby hybrid varieties such as “Big Boy” and “Early Girl”.
You’ll have more varieties to select from in the event that you choose to begin your tomato plants indoors from seed. Imagine growing berries with titles such as “Cherokee Purple” or “Mortgage Lifter”. Add more colour to your favourite tomato salsa recipe with yellowish “Garden Peach” tomatoes, “German Pink” or “Green Zebra”. For stuffing tomatoes, try “Striped Cavern”, also for salads grow some “Christmas Grape” tomatoes.
If you’re planning on maintaining tomatoes to enjoy over winter, you’ll want a meatier tomato for example “Martino’s Roma” or “Amish Paste” for sauces. “Wisconsin 55” and “Ace” are two kinds which are especially great for freezing or canning. There are even varieties with a lower acid content for those folks who can not consume a high-acid tomato, and varieties that have more Vitamin C than oranges.
Tomatoes are one of the most versatile garden vegetables. There are as many ways to prepare berries since there are tomato varieties. Whether you prefer to eat them fresh from the garden like an apple, or you make your own spaghetti sauce or tomato salsa, whether the number you grow is red, orange, yellow, purple, white or striped, tomatoes are the most useful and tasty garden vegetable.