Wednesday, 16 May 2018 05:03

Time to Plant them ‘Maters   

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Time to Plant them ‘Maters    Time to Plant them ‘Maters    Photo by J.A. Bolton

ROCKINGHAM - Who doesn’t like homegrown tomatoes? Why, they’re good for breakfast, dinner and supper, or even a snack.

Eat them right out of the patch, between two pieces of bread with plenty of Duke’s mayonnaise or in a fresh salad. There is no wrong way to eat a good homegrown tomato.

The history of the tomato goes back to about 500 A.D. The fruit – and yes, it was classified as a fruit rather than a vegetable - was first grown by the Aztecs.  With the oncoming age of explorers it was brought to Europe. It became very popular in Italy and southern Europe, but, in some European countries such as England, it was believed that the tomato was poisonous.

How could a beautiful fruit, or later called a vegetable by some, such as a tomato be poisonous? It so happened that rich folks back in the 1500’s ate from plates made of pewter, which had a high lead content. Food high in acid like tomatoes would cause the lead to leach-out into the food, resulting in lead poisoning and death. Poor folks ate out of wooden plates which had no adverse effect from the acid. This went on until the 1800’s.

So what happened that everybody started eating tomatoes? Seems that as America was settled, more and more cultures came together and the Italians invented pizza (although they were in New York City at the time). There is no pizza without tomato sauce.

How did the lonely tomato become a vegetable? Why it took a decision from our Supreme Court to decide that question. Seems until the late 1800’s the tomato was classified as a fruit to avoid taxation. After the decision a tax was placed on the sale of tomatoes. Sounds like what our countries’ leaders in today’s world would do.

Today, the tomato is the most popular vegetable eaten in America with over twelve millions tons of tomatoes used each year.

So what is the best kind to plant? To be honest, some folks prefer Roma tomatoes to make their sauces for spaghetti. Other folks like a low acid tomato like a yellow tomato. Others, why they like an old stand- by like German Johnson or Beefsteak. Myself, I like Celebrity and Cherokee Purple. All have a great taste but don’t hold up like many kinds of the new shipping varieties of tomatoes that are grown by larger farmers to sale. These shipping tomatoes look good but haven’t got much flavor.

Homegrown heirloom tomatoes are by-far the best tasting but are subject to more diseases like the wilt and blossom-end rot.

I still plant my tomatoes like we did when I was a young-un by using a tobacco hand-setter. Don’t matter which way you plant a tomato plant you need to plant it on a ridge. This helps the plant hold in water during dry spells and in-case of heavy rain it will drain better and not drown your plant.

When I’m planting my tomato plants with a setter I use water mixed with Miracle Grow. If you dig your holes by hand place a small hand-full of Black Cow and a teaspoon of Epsom Salt in each hole. It don’t pay to over fertilize your tender plants until they take off growing. Dry fertilizer works well but don’t get it too close to the plant.

After planting my plants, I place wire cages around them. Then I drive a five foot, three-quarter inch plastic P.V.C. pipe inside the cage about six inches deep and about four inches from the plant. This allows me to water the plant’s roots with water every few days and use Miracle Grow about every two weeks. As the plants get bigger you also might need to water the top foliage with a hose pipe or overhead sprinkler.

As your tomato plants start to get larger, a good suckering of the lower leaves is in order. This promotes the plant to produce bigger tomatoes. While suckering keep a close eye out for green tomato worms which like to eat the leaves off the plant.

How long does it take your tomato plants to produce? The short answer is it can take anywhere from two to three months. Temperature and other environmental conditions play a big part in the development and ripening process of tomatoes.

Some folks pull their tomatoes while they are still green. Fried green tomatoes are a delicious southern dish. Waiting for your first ripe tomato can be a waiting game, but well worth the wait.

I hope you have picked-up a few tips for growing your own tomatoes and here’s to a good crop.

Editor's note:  According to the Oxford Living Dictionary, "The tomato is the edible, often red, fruit/berry of the plant Solanum lycopersicum, commonly known as a tomato plant. The plant belongs to the nightshade family, Solanaceae. The species originated in western South America.  It is now considered a vegetable for the purposes of cooking, but is scientifically denoted as a fruit.  True fruits are developed from the ovary in the base of the flower, and contain the seeds of the plant (though cultivated forms may be seedless). Blueberries, raspberries, and oranges are true fruits, and so are many kinds of nut."


Last modified on Tuesday, 15 May 2018 21:23