A traditional food in Central and South America, tomatoes found their way to Europe with Spanish explorers. It has been a staple of healthy Mediterranean cuisine ever since.
Loaded with vitamins A, C and folic acid, tomatoes are also rich sources of other minerals, nutrients and antioxidants that aid in blood glucose control, and may help prevent certain cancers, lower blood pressure and support heart health. Dark-colored varieties, such as “Black Krim” and those with deep purple fruits, tend to have the highest concentrations of antioxidants vitamin A, C and lycopene.
You can find a tomato variety for nearly any garden or ornamental desire. Some grow very tall and require trellising, while others stay short and compact Others fit nicely into a hanging basket or cascade over the side of a window box. Fruits range in size and shape softball size, and now display a rainbow of colors.
In spring, start seeds indoors in planting trays 6 weeks before your last expected spring frost date. Grow the seedlings under grow lights. When seedlings have their first set of true leaves, transplant each one into a 4″ pot. About a week after the last frost, transplant them into the garden or to 15″ pots after acclimating them to outdoor conditions. Space plants 18″to 24″ apart. Place their support cage around them at planting time.
Harvest & Keeping
Harvest tomatoes when the fruit is uniformly red, depending on the variety, and gives slightly when pressed gently. Slice or chop to use fresh in salsa, salads and sandwiches. Saute with onions, peppers, garlic, basil and oregano for sauce, or add to soups, stews and casseroles. Freeze or can extra tomatoes or tomatoes. Tip: Remove the skins by dipping ripe fruit in boiling water for 1 minute, then dunking in ice water.
Unripe fruit can be picked and ripened on the kitchen counter. Discard any that experienced frost or have bad spots on them. wash, dry and place them in a paper bag or leave them in a colander. They don’t need light to ripen. The key is to pick through them regularly and remove decaying fruit. It may take a couple of weeks or so for the fruit to ripen.
Tomatoes may aggravate acid reflux or increase heartburn in some people.