Computerized Vegetable Gardening
“Everything You Need to Know to Grow Delicious, Nutritious Crops at Home!”
EXPLORE 50 of the most commonly home-grown crops.
DISCOVER a wealth of information about vegetable origins and geography, “cultivars,” ease of culture, planting, transplanting, supporting, watering and fertilizing, cultivating and mulching, disorder/disease/pest control, harvesting, storing, and eating.
ENRICH your garden (or undergraduate courses in horticulture).
© 1993 Douglas Drenkow. All Rights Reserved.Introduction to Computerized Vegetable Gardening
- Welcome to Computerized Vegetable Gardening
- Who Vegetable Gardens?
- Why Vegetable Garden?
- What to Vegetable Garden?
- Where to Vegetable Garden?
- When to Vegetable Garden?
- How to Vegetable Garden?
WELCOME TO COMPUTERIZED VEGETABLE GARDENING! I’m “Bug” Doug Drenkow — so nicknamed because of some of my other works, on “entomology” [the study of insects and their kin]. I’ve been an organic (and occasionally hydroponic) vegetable gardener for over 20 years, and in 1980 I received my Bachelor of Science degree (with Highest Honors, I’m proud to say) in Plant Science from the good ol’ University of California at Davis. For years now I’ve been researching a considerable variety of subjects; and recently, I’ve been committing my thoughts to computer disks. For more on “computerization,” see the file “About the ‘veg’ Program.” For now, let’s consider the “Who,” “Why,” “What,” “Where,” “When,” and “How” of vegetable gardening — after all, the medium exists to serve the message!
WHO VEGETABLE GARDENS? People of every size, shape, color, sex, and age (For those of you unable, or unwilling, to perform the rigorous jobs in the garden, I recommend to you the classic book by Ruth Stout on “no-work gardening”).
Vegetable gardening has been a recreational, educational, and indispensible part of billions of human lives for about 10,000 years! Whether it’s one person on one’s own patch of the Earth or a family or community come together, a “green thumb” offers many, often priceless rewards.
WHY VEGETABLE GARDEN? Why not?!
There are culinary reasons to vegetable garden. You can tickle your palate with unbelievably tasty, succulent, colorful, fresh-from-the-garden crops. You can grow species or varieties of vegetables not readily available from local stores. You can learn to like new things.
There are economic reasons to vegetable garden. You can reduce your food bill. Youngsters and others can earn money selling their home-grown produce. You can write your own book or data-base someday (Just give ol’ “Bug” Doug a chance to sell his, OK?). You can help raise your standard of living (Nations with a high per-capita consumption of vegetables and fruits tend to have a high per-capita standard of living — vegetables are indeed good for you!)
There are biological reasons to vegetable garden. You can take healthy pride in a healthy product. You can provide yourself, your family, and your neighbors with vitamin-, mineral-, and fiber-rich foods (all the more nutritious because they are garden fresh). With a balanced diet and moderate exercise (See your physician first), you can probably reach your most natural body weight (Most vegetables are low in calories and fats, and none have any cholesterol whatsoever!). You can say “good-bye” to many pesticides and other artificial food additives. You may well live longer and better, physically and emotionally (See below). Gardening can be great exercise, a full-body work-out in the fresh air of the great outdoors! You can learn about the “birds and the bees” from the birds and the bees. You can conduct biological experiments in your own back yard (That’s my excuse whenever something goes wrong!). You can be a “beneficial organism” in the environment. You can learn the responsibility to care for living things (without too much guilt if things don’t work out quite the way you planned).
There are social reasons to vegetable garden. You can get together with family or community in a common, wholesome project. A trashy lot can be transformed into a “paradise on Earth” (Just beware of toxic dumps!). You can be part of America’s Number One Hobby. You can share a tradition with your ancestors’ ancestors.
There are spiritual reasons to vegetable garden. You can be caretaker of your little corner of God’s green Earth. You can get in touch with the Earth — literally and figuratively. You can immerse yourself in the beauty of nature. You can witness the stark realities of survival of the fittest. You can learn to more fully appreciate the miracle of life. You can get in touch with some of the most basic instincts of human nature. You can take your frustrations out on bugs, weeds, and dirt clods instead of on some poor schnook who just happens to be handy when you’re not exactly in the best of moods. You can relieve stress (Watering by hand can be as relaxing as petting a puppy). You can talk to plants (but see a physician if they start to talk back!). You can learn patience, over the weeks to months or even years required to grow a crop or build a soil.
There is yet another reason to vegetable garden: It’s fun!
WHAT TO VEGETABLE GARDEN? Whatever suits your fancy. The 50 or so common vegetables (in 30 entries) in this data-base are all members of just 10 families of plants (out of well over a hundred in nature). I’ve presented the vegetables in these groupings to emphasize how similar the members of each family typically are to one another, in “nature and nurture” — if you can’t find information on one plant, the advice for its “next of kin” may well be helpful.
Incidentally, the order in which the families of plants are presented is perhaps the most natural — from the most “primitive” families to the most “advanced” families (at least according to the “Besseyan System” of classification, the probably most commonly accepted arrangement in botany).
By reading the specific entries, general advice, and cumulative indexes, you will get an idea of what kinds of plants will be the easiest or most challenging or simply most interesting to grow in any given time or place. You can plant crops you know you like to eat and/or grow or those you’d like to try for the very first time. You can grow old-time “standards” or the newest “hybrids.” You can plant your entire garden to one crop (if you’ve got a big family and/or a big freezer), or you can plant a veritable smorgasbord of vegetables (which, incidentally, would probably keep any particular pest population from exploding). You can grow vegetables alone or with herbs, berries, or ornamental plants (although you’ll probably have to keep greedy shrub and tree roots a safe distance away).
By the way, you may well ask those timeless questions, “What exactly IS a ‘vegetable’ anyway? Is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable?” Well, I’ve never read a satisfactory horticultural definition of “vegetable” anywhere; but try this one on for size: A “vegetable” is a “herbaceous” [leafy, non-woody] plant with edible parts consumed in substantial amounts; if the edible part is a grain, then it is soft; and if the edible part is a sweet and fleshy fruit, then the plant is a herbaceous vine. Let’s check it out: Peanuts (produced on herbaceous plants) are vegetables, but walnuts (produced on woody plants) are not vegetables (They are tree nuts) (Incidentally, I’ve not included peanuts in this data-base because of the threat from poisonous, carcinogenic “aflatoxin,” produced by molds growing on improperly cured peanuts in storage). Root parsley (eaten in substantial amounts, at one sitting) is a vegetable, but leaf parsley (eaten in small amounts) is not a vegetable (It is an herb) (I’ve included garlic in this data-base as a vegetable because I personally consume quite “substantial quantities”). Sweet corn (a soft grain) is a vegetable, but popcorn (a hard grain) is not a vegetable (It is a cereal). Tomatoes and melons (whose sweet and fleshy fruit is produced on herbaceous vines) are vegetables, but strawberry and banana (whose sweet and fleshy fruit is produced on herbaceous plants that are not vines) are not vegetables (They are simply fruits). Likewise, the sweet and fleshy fruit of grape (produced on woody vines), blackberry (produced on woody shrubs), and apple (produced on woody trees) are not vegetables (They are, of course, fruits). In addition, eggplant (whose fruit is fleshy but not very sweet) is a vegetable; peppers, snap bean, and edible-podded pea (all of whose fruit is sweet but not very fleshy) are vegetables; and rhubarb (whose sweet and fleshy edible part is actually a leafstalk not a true, flower-borne fruit) is also a vegetable. OK, it all checks out! But then again, cooks have their own classification schemes (That’s why if you want to learn how to grow and use rhubarb, you’ll have to wait for “Bug” Doug’s Computerized Fruit, Berry, & Nut Growing).
WHERE TO VEGETABLE GARDEN? In any state of the Union (and in any nation on the globe)!
A garden can be located in just about any sunny spot with good air circulation and water drainage (For more details, see “Where to Sow,” in the general advice for “Planting”). Even partially shady locations can host some, especially leafy vegetables (see the indexes).
A good garden starts with a good garden plan: Map-out your planting rows and hills, to scale, on graph paper (and see the notes below on “succession” planting).
Take into account any variations in soil tilth, fertility, “pH,” etc. throughout the garden (For correcting problem soils, see the extensive entries in the general advice for “Planting” — few soils are beyond help).
For one method of saving garden space, see the remarks on “intensive” planting, with “Sowing Distance Within Rows & Between Rows,” in the general advice for “Planting.” Growing “dwarf” varieties will save space (“Bush” pumpkins have been a favorite in our little garden), and many “dwarf” and other small vegetable plants can be grown in containers (See the notes in the general advice for “Watering and Fertilizing During the Season”). Staking or trellising vining plants, such as tomatoes or cucumbers (both prized in greenhouses overwinter), will also save space.
Trellised plants and tall-growing plants, such as corn, are typically planted on the north end of the garden, to prevent shading-out the other crops; and “perennial” vegetables, namely rhubarb and asparagus, must be planted where nothing else will be grown for several years. Shrubs and trees not only can shade the garden, as can fences and buildings; but also, their roots can compete with vegetables for water and minerals from the soil: Keep the garden at a safe distance (and see “Where to Sow,” in the general advice for “Planting”).
Many vegetable plants can be worked into flower beds, perhaps as a border planting (For more details, see the index to “Ornamental Vegetables”).
And remember that it’s quite handy to have your produce near the table — it’s not for nothing that vegetable (and herb) plots are often called “kitchen gardens.”
WHEN TO VEGETABLE GARDEN? See the index to the “Warmth Requirements” of various vegetables and also “When to Sow” in the general advice for “Planting” to get an idea of when to plant which vegetables.
Although most areas are not as fortunate as along the Gulf and Pacific coasts, where various vegetables can be grown year-round, every area has a long enough growing season for a goodly variety of crops (and see the general advice on “Transplanting,” for getting a jump on the growing season).
Your planting strategy must take into account not only space but also time — to make best use of space, figure-out (and map-out) what you’ll plant after the first crops are harvested (assuming you live in one of those many areas of the country where the growing season is long enough to allow such “succession” planting — for more details, see “When to Sow,” in the general advice for “Planting”).
Remember to not plant more than you will be able to take care of: Take your personal needs and desires into account when planning your planting. Ultimately, the health of your garden will depend upon your continually taking the time to keep a close eye on things (For example, populations of aphids can explode overnight!).
HOW TO VEGETABLE GARDEN? You can start by exploring the rest of this data base. However, here are a few pointers.
As you work in your garden, you’ll soon discover exactly what sorts of tools you’ll need for your particular crops and location. Probably the minimum requirements are a spading fork (or spade, shovel, or roto-tiller), for turning the earth; a hoe, for pulverizing the soil, opening and closing seed furrows, and cutting weeds; a rake (the stronger, the better), for smoothing the soil and removing debris; and a hose, or other water-delivering system. In addition, a wheelbarrow, for moving soil amendments in and garden refuse out, and a pair of gloves, for preventing the otherwise inevitable blisters and “manicurial” problems, are highly recommended. You’ll find considerable variety for each of these and other implements on the market: You’ll have to be the judge as to what’s best for your particular needs. I’ll give you four valuable pieces of advice, however.
First, don’t forget that your hands will probably be your most valuable tools (even better than trowels for transplanting).
Second, get the most generally useful tools (such as a standard hoe) before even thinking about getting highly specialized tools (such as a very narrow hoe)
Third, buy the best tools you can afford — they’ll serve you well for years to come and, thus, probably be less expensive in the long-run than “cheap” tools (In general, the best tools have seasoned hardwood handles and forged, one-piece heads — there’s less to break and what is there is as strong as it can be).
Fourth, keep your tools in good condition so they will last: After washing or scraping dirt off metal parts, dry them well and (preferably) oil them, as in a bucket of oily sand; and you may wish to occasionally, but not too exuberantly, sharpen the blades of digging and cutting tools (For the blade of a spade, push and pull a file at an angle across each side of the digging edge of the blade; and for the blade of a hoe, push a file across the cutting edge of the blade at an angle back from the side facing the handle of the hoe).
Don’t be afraid to contact your county Extension agent or State Extension Office (as found in phone books), for such things as soil-testing or identifying pests: Although they’re usually very busy, they’re usually very helpful — it’s their job. Get to know the people at a reputable local garden shop — they can tell you of the best varieties, planting dates, etc. for your neighborhood and season. And don’t forget that “old timers” have a lifetime of experiences they may be able — and happy — to share.
Finally, remember that almost everything in your garden is under your control, to one degree or another: Enjoy the responsibility!
Anonymous, garden catalogs, various companies, 1979 –.
Flocker, W. J., A Workbook for the Video-Audio-Self-Tutorial Approach to Plant Science, Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, Dubuque, IA, 1973.
Janick, Jules, Robert W. Schery, Frank W. Woods, and Vernon W. Ruttan, Plant Science: An Introduction to World Crops, second edition, W. H. Freeman and Company, San Francisco, CA, 1974.
Organic Gardening magazine staff, The Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening, Rodale Press, Inc., Emmaus, PA, 1978.
USDA, Agricultural Research Service and Extension Service (George Fassuliotis and Ricardo E. Gomez, reviewers), Growing Vegetables in the Home Garden, Home and Garden Bulletin Number 202, Washington, DC, 1985.
Whitney, David C., managing editor, The World Book Encyclopedia, Field Enterprises Educational Corporation, Chicago, IL, 1963.
Williamson, Joseph F., editorial director, Sunset Western Garden Book, Lane Magazine and Book Company, Menlo Park, CA, 1975.
Bailey, L. H., Manual of Cultivated Plants, revised edition, The MacMillan Company, New York, NY, 1949.
Hausenbuiller, R. L., Soil Science: Principles and Practices, William C. Brown Company, Publishers, Dubuque, IA, 1972.
Disorders, Pests, & Wildlife
Drenkow, Douglas, “Bug” Doug’s Computerized Biological Control, Drenkow Media, Arcadia, CA, 1992.
Drenkow, Douglas, Food Webs of Insects and Their Kin, Drenkow Media, Arcadia, CA, 1992.
Horst, R. Kenneth, reviser, Westcott’s Plant Disease Handbook, fifth edition, Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, NY, 1990.
Kenaga, Clare B., Principles of Phytopathology, edition 2, Balt Publishers, Lafayette, IN, 1974.
Maggenti, A. R., Introduction to Nematology, lecture notes, University of California at Davis, Davis, CA, 1977.
Yepsen, Roger B., Jr., editor, Organic Plant Protection, Rodale Press, Inc., Emmaus, PA, 1976.
Anonymous, Ronco Food Dehydrator™ and Yogurt Maker: Instruction and Recipe Book, Ronco, Inc., Elk Grove Village, IL, 1983.
USDA, Agricultural Research Service (J. M. Lutz and R. E. Hardenburg, authors), The Commercial Storage of Fruits, Vegetables, and Florist and Nursery Stocks, Agriculture Handbook No. 66, Washington, DC, 1968.
USDA, Extension Service (Milton P. Baldauf, reviewer), Home Freezing of Fruits and Vegetables, Home and Garden Bulletin Number 10, Washington, DC, 1982.
USDA, Human Nutrition Information Service, USDA’S Food Guide Pyramid, Home and Garden Bulletin Number 249, Hyattsville, MD, 1992.
USDA, Human Nutrition Information Service, Consumer Nutrition Center (Susan E. Gebhardt, Rena Cutrufelli, and Ruth H. Matthews, principal investigators), Composition of Foods: Fruits and Fruit Juices, Agriculture Handbook Number 8-9, Hyattsville, MD, 1982.
USDA, Human Nutrition Information Service, Nutrition Monitoring Division (David B. Haytowitz and Ruth H. Matthews, principal investigators), Composition of Foods: Vegetables and Vegetable Products, Agriculture Handbook Number 8-11, Hyattsville, MD, 1984.
USDA, Human Nutrition Information Service, Nutrition Monitoring Division (Marie A. McCarthy and Ruth H. Matthews, principal investigators), Composition of Foods: Nut and Seed Products, Agriculture Handbook Number 8-12, Hyattsville, MD, 1984.
Knox, Gerald M., editor, Better Homes & Gardens New Cook Book, Meredith Corporation, Des Moines, IA, 1989.
Migliario, Ida, Zorada T. Titus, Harriet W. Allard, and Irene Nunemaker, editors, The Household Searchlight Recipe Book, The Household Magazine, Topeka, KS, 1941.
Rombauer, Irma S., and Marion Rombauer Becker, Joy of Cooking, The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., Indianapolis, IN, 1964.
U.S. Armed Forces (U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and U.S. Marine Corps), Armed Forces Recipe Service, U.S. Department of Defense, Washington, DC, 1980.
Sample Entry: Tomato
Note: Numbers in parentheses and brackets are code numbers for computerized cross-references (precursors of modern-day hyperlinks) as well as for illustrations in the accompanying booklet.
- Origins & Geography
- “Cultivars” [Cultivated Varieties]
- Ease of Culture
- Watering & Fertilizing During the Season
- Cultivating & Mulching
- Controlling Physical Disorders
- Controlling Diseases
- Controlling “Nematodes” [Roundworms, or Eelworms]
- Controlling Insects & their kin
- Controlling Wildlife
Origins and Geography
The tomato is native to the Andes of Ecuador and Peru. The wild plant, with tiny berries [botanically speaking], was spread by Native Americans, up through modern-day Mexico.
After Columbus discovered the New World, explorers brought the tomato back to Europe; however, this exotic new fruit was often considered poisonous — scientists gave it the name Lycopersicon, meaning “wolf-peach” (In France in the 1600s, those in search of an aphrodisiac called the tomato, then grown as an ornamental, the “love apple”). The tomato would, of course, become a staple of Italian cuisine, as in sauces on spaghetti (which was also imported, from China by Marco Polo).
The tomato was reintroduced into the Americas, from Europe. Thomas Jefferson was one of the first Americans to grow and eat tomatoes, which really didn’t become a popular food here until after the Civil War. Today, the tomato is much grown all over the U.S. and also in Mexico, Brazil, Spain, Italy, Arab countries, and Japan.
Home-grown, vine-ripened tomatoes are superior in taste and texture to their store-bought counterparts, which in large measure accounts for their popularity with gardeners: Tomatoes are America’s #1 garden vegetable!
“Cultivars” [Cultivated Varieties]
LIFE HABITS: In the wild, tomatoes grow as “perennials” (surviving year after year); but in gardens, they are typically grown as “annuals” (surviving just a single season).
However, given shelter from frosts, a tomato plant (especially one of the relatively hardy “cherry” cultivars) can overwinter even in temperate climates.
GROWTH HABITS: There are 2 basic growth habits — tomato plants may be either “determinate” or “indeterminate. ”
“Determinate” tomato plants sooner or later put on only flower buds at the ends of their shoots: These plants have a self-limited, usually bushy growth habit (The 1' tall “Patio” cultivars are an extreme example).
“Indeterminate” tomatoes, which are more common, always put on leaf buds at the tips of their main shoots (and flower buds off side shoots): These plants have unlimited growth potential (In fact, in some regions of their native South America, wild tomato plants survive year after year and grow to be immense jungle vines!). The 6' vines of “cherry” tomato plants that commonly grow in our temperate climates in just a single season are a good example of an “indeterminate” cultivar.
STANDARDS & HYBRIDS: Hybrid cultivars produce plants and fruit that are uniform and often large and disease-resistant (However, as for all hybrid plants, do not save their seed: They may not produce true to variety — see “Saving Seed,” with “Harvesting”).
EARLY-, MID-, & LATE-SEASON CULTIVARS: There are early-, mid-, and late-season cultivars. Early tomatoes will set fruit at lower temperatures than other cultivars; and some mid- and late-season cultivars will set fruit during high temperatures, when flowers typically drop.
Tomatoes are “day neutral” plants, flowering during either long or short days (actually during periods of either short or long nights), as long as there is enough heat and light or growth — not surprisingly, tomatoes are a popular greenhouse crop overwinter.
EDIBLE PARTS: Bountifully produced typically in clusters from small, pale yellow flowers, the best fruit of tomato plants have smooth (not rough and ridged) shoulders, little cracking as they ripen, only a small scar at the blossom-end, a thin and blemish-free skin, a thick meat, a small seed cavity with few seeds, a small core, and a sweet and delicious flavor.
In general, tomato fruits can be classified as “beefsteak,” “cherry,” or “pear” (or “plum”) cultivars.
“Beefsteak” tomatoes are big, meaty, and mild. Usually, they don’t ship well; so they are frequently grown in home gardens. “Beefsteak” tomatoes vary in shape, from flattened to nearly perfectly round, and in size: Early tomatoes typically weigh about 1/4 pound each; maincrop weigh about 1/2 to 1 pound each; and the largest cultivars (for whom the name “beefsteak” is often reserved) often average 1 pound or more — the Guinness Book of World Records verifies a 6-1/2 pound behemoth (a champion specimen of the “Delicious” cultivar).
“Cherry” tomatoes are round and about 1" across. In addition, there are even a few miniature tomato cultivars, whose fruit is only about 1/2 to 3/4" across; and “patio” cultivars are only about 1-3/4" in diameter.
“Pear” tomatoes (indeed pear-shaped and about 1-1/2" wide by 3-1/2" long) are meaty, sweet, sharp-tasting Italian cultivars, grown for making thick tomato sauces and pastes.
Although ripe tomatoes typically have red skin and flesh, some cultivars are pink, orange (as with red or orange flesh), orange-yellow, or even yellow (as some pear-shaped cultivars are). In addition, green, unripe tomatoes are often used in making preserves (as when there is insufficient time at the end of the season for the fruit to ripen before the first frosts).
Incidentally, tomato leaves are poisonous (The tomato is in the deadly-nightshade family, the “Solanaceae,” whose leaves produce the poison “solanine”).
Ease of Culture
Tomatoes are fairly easy to grow — in fact, most gardeners would say very easy to grow (However, see “Transplanting” for some steps above and beyond what you have to go through with direct-seeded garden crops). Tomatoes have become the most widely grown garden vegetable in the U.S. , and they are one of the most commonly grown of all garden plants — edible or otherwise!
NOTE: See also “Transplanting” (Unless otherwise noted, spacings and other specifications given below apply to transplants as well as to direct-seeded crops).
“VOLUNTEERS”: “Volunteer” tomato plants [typically those that sprout from seeds within fruit that dropped the year before] reportedly should not be transplanted but should be left to grow where they are (circumstances permitting).
WHEN TO SOW: Tomato plants are very tender — definitely a warm-season crop (Hybrids are especially temperamental). In mild-winter regions, tomatoes can be seeded directly into the garden: Sow in warm soil, about 3 weeks after the last expected frost (See booklet for “U.S. Frost Map”). The seeds sprout best when soil temperature is between 70 and 80°F, and the seedlings grow best when the air temperature is between 60 and 70°F.
However, in most regions of the U.S. (with shorter growing seasons), plants should be transplanted — see “Transplanting. ”
WHERE TO PLANT: (Trans)Plant tomatoes in a sunny location, with good air-circulation.
“Patio” cultivars are often planted in hanging baskets; and just about any tomato plant can be grown in a large pot or basket, if kept regularly water and fertilized (See “Watering & Fertilizing” and the “General Advice” on container gardening, with that section).
SEEDBED TILTH: Plant tomatoes in a well-drained soil, as with much compost dug-in. The roots of a tomato plant can penetrate down to a depth of 6'.
SEEDBED FERTILITY: Tomato plants reportedly prefer a soil rich in phosphorus and potassium but only moderately rich in nitrogen (In general, nitrogen favors the growth of leaves over the production of fruit).
SEEDBED “pH” [ACIDITY OR ALKALINITY]: Tomatoes prefer a somewhat acidic soil, pH 5.2 to 6.7.
DISTANCE WITHIN ROWS & BETWEEN ROWS: Tomatoes that will not be supported (See “Supporting”) should be set 2 to 4' apart each way; and those that will be staked or caged, about 1-1/2 to 2-1/2' apart each way “Determinate” cultivars can usually be spaced closer than “indeterminate” ones (See “Cultivars”).
PLANTING DEPTH: Sow seed about 1/4 to 1/2" deep.
WATERING & FERTILIZING SEEDBED: Keep soil moist, not soggy or dry. Water small seedlings with a weak liquid fertilizer (such as manure tea or fish emulsion); larger seedlings with full-strength fertilizer.
TIME TO EMERGE: About a week to 10 days.
THINNING: See booklet for illustration of seedling; however, please note that there are often 3 “cotyledon” seed leaves (a common and harmless mutation).
“Determinate” tomatoes usually grow faster than “indeterminate” cultivars and, thus, will need thinning sooner.
INTERPLANTING: Tomatoes are traditionally planted with such flowers as marigold or nasturtium; such herbs as bee balm, borage, mint, opal basil, parsley , or chives ; or such vegetables as cabbage  or other cole crops, Lima bean , carrot , celery , onion , or asparagus  (In addition, tomato plants reportedly benefit from nearby plants of sow thistle, which, however, is a weed).
INTRODUCTION: See also “Planting,” for spacings and other specifications; and as always, see “General Advice” .
Although in mild-winter areas tomatoes are often seeded directly into the garden, in most areas of the U.S. (with shorter growing seasons) tomatoes are transplanted.
Easy to transplant, tomatoes are one of the most commonly available of all garden plants for purchase. Buy only plants with a deep-green color, a medium height, a heavy stem, and no fruit or open flower buds.
STARTING PLANTS FOR TRANSPLANTING: Seed should be sown in a coldframe or greenhouse or indoors behind a sunny window about 6 to 8 weeks before the last expected spring frost (See booklet for the “U.S. Frost Map”).
Sow a few seeds in each of several 3 to 4" peat pots or sow more seeds, about an inch apart in each direction, in a larger well-drained container filled with a potting mix (See “General Advice” ). Cover the seeds with 1/4 to 1/2" of fine soil, firmed and moistened.
The seeds sprout best when the soil temperature is between 70 and 80°F (Seeds sprouted indoors on a windowsill should be moved away from the window at night — remember, too, that hybrids are especially temperamental). In about a week to 10 days the seeds should sprout.
CARING FOR PLANTS FOR TRANSPLANTING: Grow the seedlings in the coldframe or greenhouse or, indoors, on the windowsill or 4 to 8" under a plant “grow light” kept on for 12 to 18 hours a day.
The best temperature for the seedlings is 60 to 70°F (If grown on a windowsill, move the seedlings away from the window at night).
To prevent “damping-off” [a disease rotting the seedlings at or below the soil line] keep the soil surface from becoming soggy: Water seedlings only as needed, preferably from below (by setting their containers in a pan of water, which soaks up into the planter mix — once again, see “General Advice” ).
A weak liquid fertilizer (as of manure tea or fish emulsion) should be applied weekly.
“Determinate” cultivars will usually grow faster than “indeterminate” ones (See “Cultivars”).
When the seedlings have at least 2 true leaves (See booklet for illustration), cut-off or otherwise thin plants to the strongest 1 per 3" or 4" pot or, for plants not in pots, transplant seedlings within larger containers so that they stand 3 to 4" apart.
Continue to water regularly, keeping the soil moist, not dry or wet; and feed with liquid fertilizer at almost the full recommended rate.
Unless the plants are to be grown in a greenhouse all season, it is beneficial to “harden off” the plants: For the first week after the last expected frost (See booklet for “U.S. Frost Map”), withhold water somewhat; and then over the next 2 weeks or so, gradually expose the seedlings to the outside air — start with a short exposure during the first day and gradually increase the exposure daily (Once again, see “General Advice” ).
SETTING TRANSPLANTS: About 3 weeks after the last expected frost, after the soil has warmed nicely, the plants will be ready to transplant into their final, sunny, airy, well-drained location outdoors.
Wilting of the transplant can be minimized by working on an overcast day.
“Transplant shock” can be minimized by a solution of commercially available vitamin B-1 or a solution of 2 parts water and 1 part sifted compost added to the hole that will receive the transplant and later to the soil over the roots of the transplant.
Disturb the roots as little as possible and bury the plant so that only the upper leaves stick out of the soil: Roots will form along the buried stem and help feed the growing plant.
CARING FOR TRANSPLANTS: In cold climates, transplants may be given some additional protection from cold temperatures, especially at night, by covering them with baskets, “hotcaps,” or bottomless gallon jugs (capped and set upright over the plants) or by building windbreaks, as with bales of hay (Once again, see “General Advice” ).
“Determinate” cultivars (See “Cultivars”) are usually short and bushy — supporting these plants is not necessary.
In contrast, “indeterminate” tomato plants left unsupported will sprawl out over the ground: Although sprawling, unsupported tomato plants usually produce more pounds of fruit per plant, tomatoes spaced closer together and supported upright usually bear more pounds of fruit per square foot of garden space; and the fruit produced by plants held upright are usually more uniform in size and less subject to rot than those lying on the ground. In addition, it is easier to weed the garden if the vines are held up off the ground.
The most common method of supporting tomatoes is tying them loosely with such soft materials as yarn or linen to stakes at least 1" x 1" thick and 6' tall, stuck into the ground. Plants on stakes are usually limited to just 2 main shoots, no taller than the stake: Pinch back excess side shoots after they have grown 6" long and pinch back the top shoots when they reach the top of the stake.
Other good methods of supporting tomato plants include caging them with wire mesh (open wide enough to allow handpicking of the fruit inside the cages) and growing them over wooden A-frames.
In greenhouses, tomatoes are often pruned and attached to hanging cords or wires, which may be lowered from above as the fruiting level of the plant goes ever higher, over the course of the season!
Watering & Fertilizing During the Season
INTRODUCTION TO IRRIGATION: See “General Advice” .
WHEN TO WATER: Keep the soil moist, not dry or soggy.
HOW TO WATER: Typically water slowly and deeply.
WHEN & HOW TO FERTILIZE THE SOIL: Fertilize the soil every other week, or every other watering, from the time of the first blossom-set to the end of harvest.
WHAT TO FERTILIZE THE SOIL WITH: Typically, feed plants with a balanced fertilizer (such as rich compost). Avoid excessive nitrogen, which will tend to favor the production of foliage over fruit.
CONTAINER GARDENING: Patio cultivars are often grown in hanging baskets; and almost any tomato plant can be grown in a large pot, if kept regularly watered and fertilized (See “General Advice” ).
Cultivating & Mulching
CULTIVATING: Cultivate lightly to kill weeds, without disturbing the tomato roots.
In particular, get rid of any orangish, leafless vines of the parasitic plant dodder before it goes to seed! Also be on the look-out for the whitish, yellowish, brownish, or purplish stems of the parasitic plant broomrape, with bractlike leaves and snapdragonlike flowers, producing many tiny seeds.
It is easier to weed the garden if the vines are supported up off the ground (See “Supporting”).
MULCHING: Mulching not only keeps down weeds but also keeps fruit of unstaked tomatoes off the soil, where it is prone to rot — after the soil has thoroughly warmed, apply a mulch, such as black plastic or several inches of grass-clippings, partially rotted leaves, or compost (A lose mulch, as of straw, will help provide a dry surface for fruit to rest on). However, to prevent the spread of tobacco mosaic virus, don’t use tobacco stems as a mulch. See “General Advice” .
Controlling Physical Disorders
GENERAL ADVICE: As always, see also “Controlling Diseases,” “Controlling Nematodes,” and “Controlling Insects and their Kin.”
SOIL-MOISTURE DISORDERS: Keep soil moist, not dry or soggy, to prevent most such disorders.
“Leafroll” may result from too much water in soil or from disease. Starting from the bottom of the plant, leaves curl and may thicken (and rattle when shaken). The loss of many leaves, especially on staked plants, may lower the quantity and quality of fruit. To prevent leafroll, grow on well-drained soil, do not overwater, do not over-prune plants, and do not cultivate too deeply near plants. Dry weather tends to control leaf roll.
Leaf swelling results from too much water in leaves.
“Cuticle crack” or “stem-end cracking” of green fruit may result from soil that is too wet and air that is too hot. Especially during rapid growth, cracks open and heal over but will reopen easily and deeply, disfiguring fruit and allowing diseases in. Plant resistant cultivars (such as many paste tomatoes). Keep soil evenly moist. Pick fruit a bit early if need be.
“Catface” [fruit distortion] may result from uneven growth, as from uneven watering.
Fruit “pockets,” or “puffing” may result from poor growth and poor pollination.
“Blossom-end rot” often results from uneven watering, or calcium deficiency, especially after proper early growth. Plant resistant cultivars. Plant in porous, well-warmed soil. Keep soil moist, not soggy or dry. Don’t overfertilize with nitrogen. Don’t cultivate too closely or too often (Tramping over the soil, especially when moist, will compact it, hampering both its drainage and water- holding ability). Mulch soil.
CHEMICAL DISORDERS: As always, see the “Plant Nutrient Deficiency Key” [ndk] for identifying possible causes of stunted, deformed, and/or discolored leaves, stems, roots, buds, flowers, fruits, and/or seeds.
“Fasciation” [flattening or fusing of shoots] may result from a mineral imbalance (or may be inherited).
An excess of soil nitrogen will favor the production of many bright, light green leaves, especially on seedlings, at the expense of flowers and fruit — cut down on the nitrogen applied; or add phosphorus and potassium, for balanced nutrition.
Blotchy ripening of fruit may result from a mineral deficiency, perhaps of potassium.
“Blossom-end rot” (of fruit) may result not only from uneven watering (See above) but also from a calcium deficiency — if soil-testing before planting indicates the latter, add ground limestone (but then re-test soil pH).
“Walnut wilt” results from poisons put into soil from roots of nearby or previously planted walnut trees. If you live in a smoggy area, consult local experts for cultivars resistant to air pollution.
WEATHER-RELATED DISORDERS: To promote pollination and, thus, blossom- and fruit-set, plant in a breezy location. In the absence of sufficient wind, shake the plant or hit the top of its stake during the middle of a warm day (In greenhouses, flower clusters are regularly shaken by applying an electric toothbrush to them). Fruit pockets, or puffing, may result from poor pollination (or poor growth in general).
Fruit usually will not set if the temperature drops below 55°F at night or if it goes about 95°F during the day. However, early cultivars can stand lower temperatures than most cultivars; and some cultivars, especially some “cherry” tomatoes, are relatively heat-resistant. In addition, a commercially available hormone spray may help set blossoms and fruit in low temperatures, but not in high.
See also chemical disorders (above) and diseases for other possible causes of blossom-drop.
“Cuticle crack” of green fruit may result from hot air and dry soil (See above).
“Sunscald” of fruit is common in hot, dry weather, especially on plants with few leaves, either by nature or from defoliation (as by disorders or disease).
Finally, plants can be covered with cloth or plastic sheets when light frosts threaten in fall.
CONDITIONS GENERALLY FAVORING DISEASES: Most tomato diseases in the home garden develop under warm and humid conditions.
GENERAL PRECAUTIONS: As always, see also “Controlling Physical Disorders,” “Controlling Nematodes,” and “Controlling Insects and their Kin. ”
Especially if you will be planting in the same location as in years before, plant resistant cultivars, such as “VFNT” hybrids, bred to be resistant to Verticillium and Fusarium wilts, tobacco-mosaic virus, and nematodes (Consult your county agent or other local expert for updates on this and other subjects).
Rotate tomatoes on a 3-year schedule with plants in other families (but not with okra ), and don’t grow plants susceptible to the same diseases nearby.
Moist potting soil can be sterilized by heating it in an oven at 350 to 400°F for 1 hour (a smelling proposition indoors), or you can buy sterilized potting mix.
Sow only seed certified to be disease-free. If in doubt, treat seed in 122°F hot water for 25 minutes (This will kill most seed-borne pathogens but not the seed). Thin seedlings properly — don’t overcrowd.
Keep seedlings at 60 to 70°F and in sunlight.
Buy and/or transplant only healthy plants.
Keep good records or consult your county agent for the best (time and) location for transplanting, typically sunny and airy (Keep temperature and ventilation adequate in greenhouses).
Transplant into a well-drained soil, warmed and with no recent history of disease.
Shading plants, as by close spacing, may help control some diseases.
Plants produced up off the ground, on supported plants, are less subject to rot.
Pinch side shoots off staked plants without touching the rest of the plants.
Water evenly — keep soil moist, not soggy or dry — and use pure water, not that which has contacted infected plants. Do not handle plants when they are wet.
Disinfect cultivating, pruning, and other tools in 1 part bleach with 10 parts water.
Get rid of nearby weeds, and get rid of any infected plants (and sometimes their neighbors, even if symptomless).
Wash hands well with soap and water after handling diseased plants or after smoking or chewing tobacco (which, in the same family, often carries a tomato-infecting virus), never smoke or chew tobacco amongst tomato plants, and never use tobacco stems for mulch.
Mulch soil, especially under unstaked plants, so that mud does not splash up on plants and fruit does not lie on soil (A loose mulch, as of straw, is most apt to provide a dry surface).
Inspect plants regularly.
If you use fungicides, follow label directions exactly!
Control nematodes and such insects as leafhoppers [i37], aphids [i42], and cucumber beetles [i74].
Pick fruit a bit early if problems arise during ripening.
Burn or deeply bury vines after havest.
Do not save seed from infected plants.
DEFORMED ROOTS: Hairy root, witches’ broom.
GALLS: Crown gall, wart.
DEFORMED LEAVES: Curly top, or yellow blight.
DEFORMED BUDS: Big bud.
WILT DISEASES: Bacterial wilt, Fusarium wilt (with yellows), spotted wilt, Verticillium wilt.
YELLOWING: Yellow net, yellow top, yellows.
MOSAIC: Cucumber mosaic (with stunting), “etching” [strongly defined mosaic], mosaic with “fernleaf” and internal browning of fruit, mosaic with “shoestring,” ring mosaic, “rugose” [ridged vein] mosaic, tobacco mosaic.
SPOTTING: Fruit spot, leaf spot (including ring spot), speck, stem spot.
DEATH OF TISSUES
“ANTHRACNOSE” [Distinct Dead Spots, Often Pinkish And Slimy, On Shoots]: Including ripe rot of fruit or leaves.
CANKERS & SCABS: Birds-eye spot; powdery scab; stem canker, as with fruit rot.
BLIGHTS & “NECROSIS” [Death With Or Without Rotting]: Blossom blight; early blight, with collar rot or fruit rot; late blight, a fruit rot; seedling blight; Southern blight; stem necrosis; “wildfire”; etc.
ROTTING: Brown rot, of roots; buckeye rot, of stems; charcoal rot; crown rot; damping-off, as with collar rot or stem canker; fruit rot, as in storage; fruit rot, a black mold; fruit rot, or black spot; fruit rot, or cloudy spot; fruit rot, a green-and-yellow mold; fruit rot, a green mold; fruit rot, or sour rot; gray-mold rot, or ghost spot, on stems, leaves, and fruit; nailhead spot rot, on stems and fruit; pith rot; root rot, as with wilt; root rot, black dot; root rot, with stunting of seedlings; stem- and fruit-rot, as in greenhouses; soft rot.
SIGNS OF PATHOGENS
MILDEWS: Downy mildew; powdery mildew, as on seedlings indoors.
MOLDS: Leaf mold, as in greenhouses or coldframes.
Controlling “Nematodes” [Roundworms, or Eelworms]
GENERAL ADVICE: See “Nematodes, in general” [n0].
Purchase plants labeled “VFN” — they are bred to be resistant to Verticillium and Fusarium wilts and nematodes. In addition, do not transplant plants with knots on roots. As always, see also “Controlling Physical Disorders,” “Controlling Diseases,” and “Controlling Insects and their Kin. ”
n1) ROOT-KNOT NEMATODES: Produce very small to large galls on roots, bulbs, and tubers (These hard galls are not the same as the cheesy, nitrogen-fixing galls with pinkish centers normally present on the roots of legume plants. ). A gelatinous mass, containing the eggs of the roundworm, may be found on the outside of galls. Infested roots are rough-looking and prone to rot. Roots may branch excessively. Because of poor root growth, the shoots of plants infested by root-knot nematodes are often stunted and yellow; and although adding fertilizers to the soil may bring back the green color, the plant will not produce full yields. Wilting may occur and require additional watering.
n2) CYST NEMATODES: Although free of galls (as formed by root-knot nematodes [n1]), roots of infested plants may become tough and brownish, with the whitish or yellowish adult female roundworms and the brown cysts of eggs visible on the surface of the roots. Roots may become very hairy. Seedlings may be killed. Leaves may be yellow and wilted, even if soil is well-fertilized and -watered (Compare root-knot nematodes. ). Plants grow poorly — yields are lowered.
n3) ROOT-LESION NEMATODES: Concencentric patterns of lesions, sometimes followed by rot, are found within infested roots. Small, side roots may be killed. Seedlings are often stunted, stunting further growth. The growth of plants is stunted, leaves are often yellow and few in number, and the end-growth of stems may be reduced. Yields are lowered.
n4) STING NEMATODES AND THEIR KIN: Lesions are scattered over the surface of roots, which may become infected with rot. Roots may be stubby. Roots may have “curly tip” — a gall at the end of the root. There are sometimes fewer roots. Overall plant growth may be stunted; leaves, yellowed, dying first at the edges of older, lower leaves; and yields, reduced. Plants may become prone to disease, such as fusarium wilt.
n5) KIDNEY-SHAPED NEMATODES: Plants are stunted because of infested roots. Yields are reduced. Damages caused by such diseases as fusarium wilt are increased, sometimes dramatically. Note: Because plant-infesting nematodes are microscopic, you will not be able to see any sign that these roundworms are indeed “kidney shaped. ”
n6) NEMATODES THAT CARRY VIRUSES OF PLANTS: Symptoms are like those for other nematodes. Lesions may be scattered over the surface of roots, which may be prone to rot. Roots may be stubby. Roots may have “curly tip” — a gall at the end of the root. There may be fewer feeder roots. Plant growth may be reduced; leaves, yellowed; and yields, lowered. Plants may be more susceptible to diseases, even those not directly carried by the nematodes. Symptoms caused by the plant diseases that are carried by nematodes include discoloration of leaves (yellowing, “mosaic,” or “vein-banding”), deformation of leaves, “corky ring spot,” dying-off of plant tissues, stunting of growth, and/or lowering of yields.
Controlling Insects & their kin
INTRODUCTION: As always, see also “Controlling Physical Disorders,” “Controlling Diseases,” and “Controlling Nematodes. ”
Tomato and other plants in the (deadly) nightshade family naturally produce a chemical compound (“solanine”) in their green foliage that acts as a somewhat effective insect repellent (and a very effective poison for us, if ingested).
See booklet for illustrations of insects etc.
i72) THE COLORADO POTATO BEETLE: Larvae and adults consume leaves.
i73) FLEA BEETLES: Chew tiny holes in leaves, especially of young transplants.
i74) SPOTTED & STRIPED CUCUMBER BEETLES: Carry some diseases.
i130) THE TOMATO & TOBACCO HORNWORMS: Feed on leaves and green fruit, often extensively. Look for their black droppings; and don’t be afraid of their empty threats, including their tail-end horn, red for the tobacco hornworm and green-and-black for the tomato hornworm (Both species feed on tomato and related plants).
i138) CUTWORMS: Often chew seedlings or transplants off at soil level and may also chew on roots, leaves, or fruit.
i5) MITES: Feeding produces “russeting” [reddish browning].
i24) STINK BUGS: Feeding forms cloudy spots on fruit.
i34) PLANT BUGS: Feeding produces “cloudy spot. ”
i37) LEAFHOPPERS: May carry disease.
i40) PSYLLIDS [“JUMPING PLANTLICE”]: Feeding of nymphs causes leaves to be yellowed and curled [“psyllid yellows”], plants to be spindly, and fruit to be of lower quality and quantity.
i41) WHITEFLIES: Feeding weakens plants and produces sweet “honeydew,” nurturing a black sooty mold (which blocks light from leaves) and attracting ants (which may carry aphids). One species of whitefly is especially a problem in greenhouses, cold frames, and warm climates.
i42) APHIDS: Weaken plants, produce honeydew (as from whiteflies), and may spread diseases.
i117) THE EUROPEAN CORN BORER: May migrate from dying corn to healthy tomato plants.
i139) THE TOMATO FRUITWORM [A.K.A. THE CORN EARWORM]: Bores into buds and fruit, especially from the stem end. There are other, similar worms that cause similar damage.
i142) THE STALK BORER: Chews a hole, up to 1/4" across, in a stem and enters, feeding within and withering the plant.
See “General Advice” .
DAYS TO HARVEST: The first “Patio” tomatoes are ready to harvest about 52 to 55 days after transplanting; miniature tomatoes, about 55 days; early-crop “beefsteak” tomatoes, about 54 to 62 days; “cherry tomatoes,” about 65 to 70 days; and main-crop “beefsteak” tomatoes, about 70 to 80 days.
HOW TO HARVEST: Ripe fruit pulls easily off the vine.
LENGTH OF HARVEST: A planting of early-, mid-, and late-season cultivars can provide the longest harvest.
“Determinate” cultivars (See “Cultivars”) ripen over a relatively short period: These tomatoes are desirable for short-season areas or for home-canning (and were developed for commercial harvesting).
“Indeterminate” cultivars keep bearing as long as their fruit is kept picked and the weather remains warm.
Although the plants can be covered with newspaper, cloth, or plastic to protect them from light frosts, temperatures of even 50 to 60°F for a week before harvest can cause considerable losses in storage: In general, it is best to pick all fruit — ripe and green — well before heavy frosts hit (See booklet for “U.S. Frost Map”). Although they will not ripen in storage (See “Storing”), completely green tomatoes may be used for preserves.
YIELDS: A healthy tomato plant yields abundantly — 8 to 10 pounds of fruit on average (However, we’ve gotten up to 50 pounds from a single plant — container-grown, caged, and continuously drip-irrigated with a solution containing a complete fertilizer). Various estimates for the yield of tomatoes include 6 to 20 plants for “a family of 4” (and probably the whole neighborhood, in good years), 4 to 6 bushels of fruit from 32 plants, or 200 pounds from 100' of row.
Although sprawling, unsupported tomato plants usually produce more pounds of fruit per plant, tomatoes spaced closer together and supported upright usually bear more pounds of fruit per square foot of garden space; and the fruit produced by plants up off the ground are usually more uniform in size (and less subject to rot). In addition, pruning off side branches will encourage the production of larger fruit.
SAVING SEED: Tomato cultivars will sometimes “cross-pollinate” with one another: You should take some care that undesirable cultivars are not blooming near your desired cultivar.
To save your own seed (of a standard — not hybrid — cultivar), mash red-ripe tomatoes, combine them with an equal volume of water, keep and stir this mix for several days at 70°F, pour off the mash (Fermentation kills many seed-borned pathogens), wash the good seeds (which have sunk to the bottom), dry these seeds on paper in a shady place, and store them in a dry container.
Tomato seeds are very long-lived (sometimes good for more than 5 years in storage).
See also “General Advice” .
TEMPERATURE & HUMIDITY: Low temperatures, long storage times, and overripe fruit will lead to losses of color and firmness; and high temperatures will reduce storage life and promote rotting.
Firm ripe tomatoes will keep 4 to 7 days at 85 to 90% relative humidity and 45 to 50°F (They will freeze at or below 31.1°F); and firm ripe tomatoes (reportedly including those ripened off the vine to this stage) can be held for up to 3 weeks at 32 to 35°F if they are eaten immediately after being taken out of this cold storage.
Greenhouse-grown tomatoes that are pink-red to firm-red (including those ripened off the vine at 70°F to this stage) will keep best at 50 to 55°F.
Tomatoes that are 1/2 to 3/4 red will keep over a week at 50°F.
Mature green tomatoes will keep 1 to 3 weeks, at 85 to 90% relative humidity and 55 to 70°F (They will freeze at or below 31.0°F). At 57 to 60°F mature green tomatoes will ripen in 1 to 2 weeks, maintaining their nutrition (although the color and taste will not be as good as vine-ripened tomatoes); but at temperatures below 50°F many mature green tomatoes will rot as they ripen (See also “Harvesting” for storage losses due to cool-weather outdoors).
METHODS: Some tomatoes (especially some orange cultivars) are bred to keep 6 to 12 weeks (although they are not of as good taste or texture as vine-ripened fruit). Typically, the big, meaty, mild “beefsteak” cultivars don’t store well — that’s why so may gardeners grow them in the first place!
If you do store tomatoes, it is reportedly best to store them in the light (but not direct sunlight) and upside-down (not stem-side up). A gas naturally produced by ripening tomatoes (and other fruit) will hasten the ripening of mature green tomatoes (and other fruit) — do not store ripening tomatoes with other fruit or produce that you wish to keep for any length of time.
Immature green tomatoes will not ripen off the vine: They are best used for pickling.
DEHYDRATING: Tomatoes are sometimes dried in the sun or a dehydrator unit and then stored in oil (The sweet, meaty, tasty Italian “pear” cultivars are often stored this way). To reconstitute dried fruit, simply soak it in water (See also “General Advice” ). In addition, tomatoes may also be smoked, for a handy condiment.
HOME CANNING: Some cultivars are better for canning than others; however, because all tomatoes are acidic fruit, they are relatively easy to process at home, for storage in jars (Consult a good cookbook for precautions and methods — for example, the easy way to peel a tomato is simply to drop it in boiling water for a few moments first). Tomatoes may be canned whole, halved, quartered, as paste, pureed, or juiced, or even in catsup or chili sauce. Immature green tomatoes are often used for pickling.
FREEZING: Some cultivars are better for freezing than others. See “General Advice” .
To freeze tomato juice, wash, sort, and trim firm, vine-ripened tomatoes. Cut in quarters or eighths. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes. Press through a sieve. If desired, season with 1 teaspoon salt to each quart of juice. Pour into containers, leaving head space. Seal and freeze.
To freeze stewed tomatoes, remove stem ends, peel, and quarter ripe tomatoes. Cover and cook until tender (10 to 20 minutes). Place pan containing tomatoes in cold water to cool. Pack into containers, leaving head space. Seal and freeze.
INTRODUCTION: Horticulturally a vegetable, botanically a fruit, tomatoes are used as either. The rich red color and tasty, tangy flavor — especially of home-grown and vine-ripened tomatoes — add greatly to many recipes.
Some cultivars — such as big, meaty, mild “beefsteak” tomatoes — are better for slicing; others — such as sweet, meaty, tasty “pear” tomatoes — for sauce-making.
There’s more than one way to skin a tomato, but the best is to simply drop it in boiling water for a few moments first.
Tomatoes may be used fresh or canned, as wholes, halves, quarters, paste, puree, juice (or even catsup or chili sauce).
In addition, dried or even smoked tomatoes can be kept on-hand, for handy flavoring.
BEVERAGES: Tomato juice, as with other vegetable or fruit juices (as in punch) or for a “bloody Mary” cocktail.
APPETIZERS: Tomatoes sliced (as with mayonnaise), tomato and shrimp hors d’oeuvres, stuffed cherry tomato canapes, cherry tomatoes carved as “roses. ” Fresh tomatoes may be enjoyed either chilled or at room temperature.
SALADS: Green salads with sliced tomatoes, stuffed tomatoes, jellied tomatoes, tomato aspic (as with vegetables), crab flakes or chicken soup in tomato jelly.
SOUPS: Tomato soup (creamed or not), as with cauliflower and cheese or ham and beans; “gazpacho” [cold tomato soup]; tomato and corn chowder; tomato bouillon.
SIDE DISHES: Tomatoes may be baked, stewed (red or green, as with croutons), breaded and broiled, sauteed, stir-fried, grilled, or deep-fat fried (“French fried”). Cooked tomatoes may be served creamed, scalloped, candied, crumb-topped, or “Creole style. ” Tomatoes combine well — in flavor and color — with spinach and asparagus (among a great many other foods).
ACCOMPANIMENTS TO THE MAIN COURSE: Tomatoes are essential in catsup or the increasingly popular Mexican salsa; barbeque sauces; tomato- and-horseradish sauce; red-, yellow-, or (especially) green-tomato preserves; green- tomato “mincemeat”; green-tomato pickles (as in “chutney”); tomato-celery “chow chow”; and tomato-cheese sauces.
Accompaniments to the main course may include cabbage and tomatoes with cheese; tomatoes stuffed hot (as with salads or other vegetables); cheese/spinach/tomato loaf; tomato casserole (as with olive or sauerkraut); beans in tomato sauce; tomato dumplings; or tomatoes and hominy, couscous, pasta, or rice.
MAIN COURSE: Sliced tomato on sandwiches (as with egg), on hamburgers, or in tacos. Tomato in goulash, pasta meat-sauces, casseroles, omelets, poached eggs, “rarebit” [tomato soup with eggs and cheese], scalloped salmon, ham-and-beans.
DESSERTS: Tomato ice, custards, puddings, or tarts. Tomatoes stuffed with cherries and cream cheese!
NUTRITIONAL VALUES: The vitamin content of tomatoes is highest if they are picked fresh from the garden and are prepared just before using.
Raw tomatoes and boiled tomatoes are both significant sources of copper, manganese, and thiamin [vitamin B-1].
Tomato sauce (canned, with added salt) and stewed tomatoes (with breadcrumbs, etc. ) are both significant sources of digestible carbohydrate and sodium (presumably as added salt); and tomato sauce is also a significant source of iron, magnesium, copper, thiamin [vitamin B-1], and niacin.
In addition, raw tomatoes, boiled tomatoes, tomato sauce, and stewed tomatoes are all significant sources of potassium, ascorbic acid [vitamin C], and vitamin A.
As always, for specific amounts of specific nutrients — and summaries of their value to the human body — see the nutrition index [n].