Growing Tomatoes

June 24, 2010 § 3 Comments

Tomatoes are members of the Nightshade family and though classified as fruits in a botanical sense, lack the sweetness and dessert like qualities of other fruits. Tomatoes have a subtle sweet taste with slight bitter and acidic taste ~ cooking masks the bitter taste and enhances their sweet taste.

And, tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin B6, riboflavin and chromium.

Did you notice yet how bought tomatoes can be tasteless and watery and nothing like what you remember from your childhood? That’s not you loosing your taste. It’s the effect of extreme exploitative manipulation. Don’t pay for water. Simply grow your own tomatoes. Cheaper too.

Starting them off

There are many different ways of growing tomatoes, both in the greenhouse and outside. We start off all tomatoes in the same way between late February and early March by sowing thinly into a standard potting compost in small pots, kept in the house in a warm sunny spot. Harden them off for a week or two before planting them in their final huge pots.

This year I was started off by my mom and neigbour Françoise. I just moved to Bretagne and it was too late to do it myself. I have 6 plants well underway. Yay!

Maintenance

Give seedlings lots of room to branch out. Transplant them as soon as they get their first true leaves and move them into large pots about 2 weeks after that. After the first two days of transplanting, put them in a very sunny spot. The seedlings will need strong direct sunlight or 14-18 hours under grow lights per day.

Tomato plants like moving and swaying in the breeze. Find a sunny spot that has some wind, or turn on a fan for 5-10 minutes twice a day. It helps their stem to grow strong. And/or, use supportive structures.

Mulch after the ground has had a chance to warm up. Mulching conserves water and prevents the soil and soil born diseases from splashing up on the plants, but if you put it down too early it will also shade and therefore cool the soil, while tomatoes love it hot, hot, hot!

Once the tomato plants are about 8-10 cm tall, remove the original first leaves to reduce risk of fungus problems. (I am going to do that tomorrow.)

Pinch and remove suckers that develop in the crotch joint of two branches. They won’t bear fruit and will take energy away from the rest of the plant. But only those. It is the photosynthesis process in the leaves that makes for excellent taste (or not).

Water a lot and regularly while the plants are developing. If not, the risk on end rot and cracking increases. Once it bears fruit, lessen the amount of water, but don’t stress out your sweethearts.

Harvesting

Harvest fruit when it is fully colored but still firm. Flavor improves for table use as the fruit matures. Tomatoes should be picked before the fruit becomes mushy. Do not try to save blemished tomatoes as they will spoil quickly. Tomatoes that are immature green will not ripen after picking.

Recipes

The most versatile fruit I know …

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