Tomato, Tomahto 1

Did you know that tomatoes are the most popular garden vegetable (technically tomatoes are a fruit, but they’re used more like a vegetable) in the U.S., with 95 percent of home gardeners planting them in their backyards and containers? There is nothing like taking the first juicy bite of your first homegrown tomato of the season. It is not uncommon to hear that out of all homegrown foods, tomatoes are an all-time favorite.

Why Tomatoes Are So Good for You

Flavor is not the only reason why people love tomatoes, they are also incredibly healthy. Rich in flavonoids and other phytochemicals, tomatoes have anti-carcinogenic and other healthy properties. They are also an excellent source of lutein, vitamin C, A, E and B-complex, potassium, manganese, and phosphorus. Lycopene (a carotenoid antioxidant that gives tomatoes their red color) has long been suggested to be more powerful than other carotenoids such as beta-carotene. Research has revealed it may significantly reduce your risk of stroke, prostate cancer, and improve bone health.

Popular Tomato Varieties

Tomatoes will ripen anywhere from 50 to 80 days once transplanted into the ground, depending on the variety. Early Girl, Better Boy, and Beefsteak are the best tomatoes for slicing. Top cherry tomatoes include Super Sweet 100 and Sungold.

Heirloom tomatoes anyone? The term “heirloom” refers to a tomato variety that has been passed down from gardener to gardener. Unlike modern hybrid varieties, heirloom tomatoes come true from seed, making them easy to share. The main reason to choose heirloom tomato varieties is their flavor. ‘Brandywine’ is the most famous heirloom tomato, dating back to the late 1800s.

Thirsty for Water

One of the most crucial parts of tomato plant care is knowing how much water they need. The number one rule of watering tomatoes is to make sure that you go slow and easy. Use a drip hose or other forms of drip irrigation to deliver water to your tomato plant roots slowly. Water your plant regularly, especially if it is hot and dry. It is also nice to get water straight from Mother Nature! Cooler weather means less watering, perhaps only once a week. Remember that mulch is a gardener’s best friend to hold in moisture.

Tomato Pests and Disease

Frequent visits to the garden to make sure your tomato plants are healthy is crucial. Tomato plants emit a mild toxin that discourages many small insects from bothering them, but common pests can pose significant problems if ignored. Disease problems are often the result of poor conditions such as inadequate nutrients, water, sun, or space; pathogens such as fungi, bacteria, or viruses; and weather. With proper care and maintenance, however, most problems can easily be overcome.