There is nothing like the taste of a freshly picked tomato, warm from the sunshine. In the smallest of gardens or even a flat with a window-box, it is worth growing at least one tomato plant.
There are over 10,000 varieties of tomato, from small cherry ones to Ponderosa, which can weigh in at 1.5 kg and more. Tomatoes come in a range of colours including pink, purple, black, yellow and white.
With an annual production of 60 million tons, they remain the world’s most demanded and most popular fruit. The second spot goes to bananas and third to apples.
The Tomato and you:
Tomato has potent medicinal properties. It can lower the risk of cancer, prevents cardiovascular diseases, purifies cigarette smoke carcinogens, is full of minerals and vitamins, lowers hypertension, regulates blood levels, dissolves gallstones, reduces the severity of blood clots, treats inflammation, and more.
Tomatoes are the richest source of lycopene, an antioxidant that is not only good for the heart and effective against certain cancers but also important for the health of the prostate gland in men.
Cooked tomatoes are better for you than raw ones, as more beneficial chemicals are released. Tomatoes are also packed with vitamins A and C, calcium and potassium.
Did you know?
Sometimes tomatoes are picked green and dosed with ethylene gassed on their way to the supermarket. This way when they arrive, they are ripe.
Refrigeration decreases the flavour and quality of tomatoes.
Tomatoes can keep longer if you store them with their stem down.
When and how to plant?
Plant in Cape Town from August till December and in Gauteng from August till November.
Put the seedling in a deep hole, up to the top set of leaves. The covered stems will put out other roots, and you will have a stronger, healthier plant.
Tomatoes need feeding. Use some long-term fertiliser pellets or regularly feed when you water. Feeding also improves the flavour of the fruit
Tomatoes grow well besides Carrot, Celery, Chives, Parsley, Marigold and Basil.
Avoid growing close to Rosemary, Potatoes and Fennel.
What soil is best?
Tomatoes will grow in almost all soil types except heavy clay. The soil should be relatively loose and well drained. Tomatoes don’t do well in dry soil but avoid planting them in excessively wet, waterlogged soil.
An ideal potting mix for tomatoes consists of equal parts potting soil, perlite, sphagnum peat moss and compost.