|YOU SAY TOMAYTO,
I SAY TOMAHTO
NOT ALL TOMATOES ARE CREATED EQUAL
by Theresa Crabtree
With an estimated 7,500 varieties of tomatoes to choose from,
it can be very confusing when it comes time to decide what
type of tomatoes to plant.
One thing to consider is whether the tomatoes will ripen early
or late in the season. For instance, I like to have some
early varieies, because... well, I love them and don't want to wait!
However, I also like late season tomatoes that ripen the same
time as the jalapenos, so I can preserve homemade salsa and
spaghetti. Yum! Yum!
You can also sun dry and/or dehydrate tomatoes for pizza,
salad and munching. Roma and cherry tomatoes are a good
choice because they have less seeds and are meaty. Watery
varieties take longer to dry and the end result is blander than
meatier varieties. Another perk for Romas is they produce a lot
of fruit,giving you more 'maters than many other varieties.
Size of the tomato is also important to consider.
Midget, dwarf and patio varieties, which are generally an
inch or less in variety, grow well in hanging baskets.
Cherry tomatoes are about the size of ... maybe you guessed it ...
cherries, or a little larger. You can find vine varieties growing
anywhere from a couple of feet to seven feet tall. Like Romas,
one of the perks is they are generous producers.
If you don’t have garden space, dwarf or smaller varieties will grow
well in pots on your porch or patio.
Just keep in mind they made need to be watered more frequently
when grown in outdoor pots.
One of our favorite varieties for munching are pear tomatoes.
They are small but grow prolifically. Since they don’t have a lot
of seeds or a central core, they are great for making tomato
paste and salsa.
If you prefer a sweeter tomato, try orange or yellow varieties, since
they have a higher sugar content than red tomatoes.
As might be expected, larger varieties of tomatoes such as
beefsteak, take longer to mature and may not be well-suited to
areas that have a short growing season.
If you would like to extend your ability to have tomatoes beyond
the normal growing season, there are now winter storage tomatoes
on the market. These tomatoes are set later in the season and
harvested when the fruit is partially ripe. When stored properly,
they will last 12 weeks or more.
Another factor to take into consideration is whether the tomato
is a determinate or indeterminate plant. A determinate plant is
genetically modified to produce fruit then die, or terminate,
Whereas an indeterminate plant will continue to grow and produce
fruit until outside forces such as frost or disease kills it.
Determinate tomatoes tend to be early ripeners and bushier
varieties, usually not needing to be trellised. Indeterminate plants
generally grow 3 to 10 feet and need to be trellised. If the fruit sits
on the ground, they are more likely to rot or be munched on by
roly-polies or a myriad of other hungry insects.
Two common diseases that can create havoc for your tomatoes
are fusarium wilt and verticillium wilt. Fusarium wilt is caused by
a fungus in the soil that enters the roots and plugs the water
conducting vessels. The leaves wilt, especially during the heat
of the day, and eventually the whole plant will perish.
Many varieties have been cultivated to be resistant to these
two killers. You’ll know if they are so bred if you see the
following letters after the cultivar name.
“V” means the plant is resistant to verticillium wilt.
“F” means the plant is resistant to fusarium wilt.
“VFN” indicates the plant is also resistant to nematodes and
“VFNT” means they are additionally resistant
to tobacco mosaic.
Another choice to consider is whether you prefer an heirloom or
hybrid variety of tomato. Heirloom varieties, like family jewelry,
are valued, saved and passed down for generations. They are
popular with home gardeners and organic growers, due to the wide
variety of shapes, color and flavor of the fruit.
Hybrid plants are the result of cross breeding pollen from the
“parent” plants to combine qualities found in both plants.
Features such as size, taste, color and abundance of production
are the goal. Thus one may cross-pollinate a large variety
of tomato with a smaller, sweet variety to create a large,
Hybrids should not be confused with genetically modified organisms
(GMOs), which involves the insertion or deletion of genes.
Genetically modified foods first came on the market in
the 1990s. In my opinion, GMO foods should be avoided
because research is proving that genetically altered foods can
produce strange genetic changes within the human body.
There is also the danger of large corporations such as
Monsanto gaining control over farmers due to patents on
these seeds, but that is a whole ‘nother story.
GMO tomatoes first appeared in the US market in 1994.
Due to the failure to produce the desired results, they are no
longer available in the US and UE, yet are grown in small quantities
in China. Scientists are in the process of using genetic modification
to create the “perfect” tomato for commercial growers, so be
watchful for the re-appearance of GMO tomatoes in the future.
As an important aside, I’d like to include information on how
you can tell if fruits or veggies are GMO. Although organic and
GMO labeling laws can be arbitrary, since 1990, grocery stores
have been using Price Look-Up codes (PLU codes) to make
check-out and inventory control faster and more efficient. This is the
purpose of those coded labels you find on fruit.
The codes are usually a four-digit number. If the produce is organic,
this four-digit number will be prefaced by a “9,”
whereas if the product is genetically modified,
it will be prefaced with an “8.”
As you can tell, when it comes to choosing what type of tomato
to plant, there are many things to consider beyond whether
tomatoes are a fruit or a vegetable (the votes are in. . . tomatoes are
a fruit!) and how to pronounce it (as I hear Ella Fitzgerald singing,
“You say to-may-to, I say to- mah-to. . .”).
There is no better tasting tomato than one eaten fresh
from the garden, yet, somehow that yumminess is even
better when they are dehydrated. Whether eaten as a
snack or added as a pizza topping or into fresh salads,
soups, pastas... dehydrating tomatoes is easy and a
great way to enjoy tomatoes well past the growing
season. Tomatoes are loaded with nutrition and well
known for its cancer fighting anti-oxidant, lycopene.
USING A DEHYDRATOR
USING AN OVEN
SUN DRYING TOMATOES
|FOR NEXT YEAR’S GARDEN
The following information is from the booklet
“Basic Seed Saving”
Easy step by step instructions for 18 vegetables and 29
wildflowers by Bill McDorman.
If possible, allow tomatoes to completely ripen before
harvesting for seed production.
Cut the tomato into halves at its equator,
opening the vertical cavities that contain the seeds.
Gently squeeze out from the cavities the jelly-like substance
that contains the seeds. If done carefully, the tomato itself can
still be eaten or saved for canning, sun-drying or dehydrating.
Place the jelly and seeds into a small jar or glass.
(Add a little water if you are processing only one or two
Loosely cover the container and place in a warm location,
60-75 degrees Fahrenheit for about three days.
Stir once a day.
A layer of fungus will begin to appear on the top of the mixture
after a couple of days. This fungus not only eats the gelatinous
coat that surrounds each seed and prevents germination, it also
produces antibiotics that help to control seed-borne diseases
like bacterial spot, canker and speck.
After three days, fill the seed container with warm water.
Let the contents settle and begin pouring out the water along
with pieces of tomato pulp and immature seeds floating on top.
Note: Viable seeds are heavier and settle to the bottom of the jar.
Repeat this process until water being poured out is almost clear
and clean seeds line the bottom of the container.
Pour these clean seeds into a strainer that has holes smaller
than the seeds. Let the excess water drip out and invert the
strainer onto paper towels or piece of newspaper.
Allow the seeds to dry completely (usually a day or two).
Break up the clumps into individual seeds, label and store
in a packet or plastic bag.
The following information is from the “Blue Book guide to
preserving” published by the Ball Corporation
(My preserving Bible!)