From the Aztecs to the present day, tomato sauce is a real must in our cuisine and diet. Growing tomatoes in your own garden, or maybe in a vase or flower pot, to be able to taste their flavor is a huge satisfaction, if we can then grow them organically I would say that we have done bingo!
Let’s get to know this plant better, as already mentioned, already known and used by the Aztecs in ancient times.
Tomatoes: Characteristics and Origins
Native to the Central American area, an area between the countries of Mexico and Peru, the tomato, scientific name Solanum lycopersicum, identified according to the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN) Lycopersicon esculentum, belongs to the family of Solanaceae, and is an annual plant.
Its berries (or fruits), with their characteristic red colour, are widely used in the food industry in many countries of the world.
The Aztecs called it xitomatl, while the term tomatl indicated various similar fruits, usually very fleshy and juicy.
Tomato sauce was an integral part of Aztec cuisine. It was also claimed that the tomato had aphrodisiac properties and this is why the French originally called it pomme d’amour, “love apple”.
The spread of this plant in Europe occurred after the Spaniard Hernán Cortés returned home from his long journey in 1540, and brought some examples with him.
However, although much appreciated, its diffusion and cultivation took place only in the second half of the seventeenth century.
It is also said that after the spread of tomatoes in Europe, Sir Walter Raleigh would donate this plant full of its beautiful fruits to Queen Elizabeth, calling it with the name of apples of love (“pomi d’amore”).
Although the most common tomatoes take on the characteristic red colour during the ripening period, there are also tomato plants on the market whose fruits have a different colour from red, such as white queen or white tomesol, or those of yellow, pink, orange like moonglow, green even when fully ripe and even purplish black, such as Crimean black, purple perfect.
How to Grow Tomatoes
Annual plant, of which there are many different varieties, the tomato, depending on the variety needs more or less attention to ensure a good harvest in its ripening period.
Grown mainly for food purposes, eaten raw or cooked, it has become an almost indispensable ingredient of our cuisine.
The choice of the variety is therefore important and strategic, also considering the time we have available to care for these plants.
The shape and also the consistency of the tomatoes vary according to the variety, there are long tomatoes (commonly called San Marzano), round and very large tomatoes (beefsteak or ox heart), cherry-shaped, gathered in clusters (reisetomaten), and even some cables inside.
Among the simplest tomato varieties to grow we can mention:
- The Amateur: bushy, medium sized fruit, very tasty, great to start with.
- Moneymaker: one of the best known and most reliable varieties, it produces many medium-small sized fruits.
- Gartenperle: early variety, bushy, ideal for growing in pots. It produces numerous small fruits, of the cherry type.
- Marmande: late cultivar, well known for its fruits, big and tasty, similar to those of the Belmonte tomato.
Multiplication of Tomatoes
The multiplication of this plant occurs mainly by sowing.
Multiplication of tomatoes by sowing. The sowing of tomatoes, easily available on the market, is commonly done in special containers of small size, with adequate soil very rich in organic substances, and placed in temperate places.
After about 15-20 days the first plants will appear, when they are about 10-15 cm you can plant in the garden or planter and vase. The best time for sowing tomatoes is April-May.
Although it is the most used procedure in our case, it is better to buy tomato seedlings, without having to start from the seeds, a much more complex and lengthy procedure. On the market you can find, at any nursery, seedlings of tomatoes of all varieties and sizes.
What Variety of Tomatoes to Choose?
When choosing the variety of tomatoes to grow, we must bear in mind that the tomato is generally a plant with a creeping course and that many of its varieties need support, since the fruits in contact with the ground tend to rot prematurely.
In addition to the installation of a support for the seedlings, it will be necessary, during their growth, to tie the seedling to the support, since tomatoes can also be very large and heavy, to prevent the fruits from touching the ground and rotting.
However, there are also species with a sturdier and shorter stem, which do not need any support, therefore less demanding, but the species and varieties more good and tasty unfortunately do not fall into the latter, generally grown for the production of derivatives (such as passes, pieces …)
Most Common Tomato Varieties
Among the most common varieties of tomatoes we find:
- Pachino tomatoes (or Pachino tomatoes, or cherry tomatoes).
- Strawberry (or strawberry) tomato, a variant of the strawberry-shaped Pachino tomato with a low acidity content.
- Tomato date.
- Tomato valley.
- Tomato Camone.
- Tomato Sun black.
- Belmonte Tomato.
- Tomato of San Marzano.
- Regina Tomato.
- Tomato Ox Heart.
- Catanese ribbed tomato also known as ‘u cathanisis’.
- Florentine ribbed tomato.
- Blue Tomato.
- Tomato of Corbara.
Depending on the variety, tomato harvesting can vary from 40-50 days to more than 120 days after planting.
When to Plant Tomatoes?
The best time to plant tomatoes depends mainly on the variety, there are early and late, in any case being annual plants that need so much sun, the ideal months are April and May, depending on the area when the temperature does not drop below 10-12 degrees.
The plants, in case their planting is in the field or vegetable garden, should be spaced out, so as to allow the plants to develop without hindrance. The ideal distance, depends on the variety, even if we can easily plant them at a distance of 40-50 cm.
If the space available is enough to be able to plant more rows of tomatoes, keep in mind that the distance between the rows, to be able to have a transit and an easy harvest is at least 80-90 cm.
The tomato, a fairly resistant plant, can be grown in any type of soil, but like many other plants prefers those rich in organic matter, neutral, and well drained, in which you can have better harvests.
Best Exposure for Tomatoes
These plants like a rather sunny exposure, even if in the hottest hours this can cause suffering; for some varieties to a very sunny place is preferable one in slight shade.
Tomatoes love moderate but regular irrigation. To avoid thermal shocks, the temperature of the irrigation water should never be very different from the room temperature. For this reason, irrigation is recommended in the morning or at sunset.
Harvesting is mainly done by hand, as the fruit is generally very delicate at full maturity. Depending on the cultivar, it can vary from 40-50 days to more than 120 days after transplanting.
Many tomato qualities, when they reach maturity, modify the base of the petiole, which becomes fragile, the detachment of the berry is therefore very easy.
However, some varieties are selected for mechanical harvesting, and have a marked characteristic of detachment of the berry and a particularly strong skin, able to protect the tomato during the harvesting process.