Tomatoes grow best in zones 2-10. It grows best in full sunlight. The soil should be loamy and well-drained with a pH between 6.0 to 6.8. The seeds should be planted 2-3 feet apart and 1/4 inch deep. Tomatoes can grow 3-10 feet high and 1-4 feet wide. The plant should be fed weekly with compost or fish emulsion. Any withering or dead seeds should be removed. Stakes should be used to keep the tomato fruit off of the ground and cages should be placed around the plant to help keep its structure. It should be watered a lot for the first few days. Then it should be given regular amounts of water after it has established. During the summer, tomatoes should be given 2 inches of water. Tomatoes should be rotated around the garden every year to prevent diseases that build up in the soil. Hotcaps should be placed on tomatoes if the temperature drops below 55°F because the cold temperatures can damage the plants (1). Suckers should be pinched off the main stalk to promote fruit growth in the plant. Tomatoes grow well with many plants: asparagus, basil, bean, carrots, celery, chive, cucumber, garlic, head lettuce, marigold, mint, nasturtium, onion, parsley, pea, pepper, marigold, pot marigold and sow thistle. Basil next to tomatoes helps to repel flies and mosquitoes, improves growth and flavor. Borage deters tomato worms and improves growth and flavor of the plant (4).
Culinary and Medicinal Uses
The Aztecs made a type of salsa with chillies, tomatoes, and squash. A similar salsa dish is still popular in Mexico. Tomatoes are a main ingredient in 'Bloody Marys,' named after Queen Mary of England. Popular tomato dishes are pizza, salad, tomato soup, BLT, and various sauces (2). Tomatoes are used widely throughout many cultures around the world for a variety of dishes. They are high in antioxidants and have been shown to reduce cholesterol.
Significance to Cultural Communities
Tomatoes are native to the Andes region of South America. The French used to call tomatoes 'pommes d'amour' because they were thought to be aphrodisiacs (2). There is a festival called La Tomatina in Spain where people come together to participate in a tomato fight. The Socialist Party of the Netherlands has a tomato with a white star as its logo. The tomato was chosen because they used to be thrown in protests by activists (3). Fried green tomatoes are a traditional Southern American dish. Tomatoes were planted in abundance and were harvested before ripe before the frost or because of food shortages. This dish however is not traditionally southern, as the recipe migrated from Jewish immigrants in the northeast. The dish gained popularity when a movie was released with the same name in 1991.
1. “Tomatoes.” The Old Farmer’s Almanac. http://www.almanac.com/plant/tomatoes
2. “Solanum lycopersicum” Encyclopedia of Life. http://eol.org/pages/392557/details
3. Holligan, Anna. “Dutch election: Emile Roemer seduces with Socialist charms.” BBC News. Last modified August 30, 2012. http://www.bbc.com/news/19408907
4. "Companion Planting." West Coast Seeds. Accessed January 28, 2014. http://www.westcoastseeds.com/topicdetail/topic/companion-planting/