The tomato is one of the best kept summer treats, especially home grown tomatoes. Enjoyed by millions world-wide each year, we have learned how to manipulate the tomato plant so it produces great varieties and incredible flavors. Tomato farming is rewarding because of the plant's great ability to produce fruit in a small space, making it an important part of modern gardening that maintains consumer demand, encourages healthy eating and promotes green living.
Tomato farming is said to date back to as early as 700 AD with the Aztecs but is more commonly known as an early staple in Mediterranean diets. Although not as quickly accepted by Western European and American cultures, due to beliefs that the fruit might be poisonous, tomatoes became more common-place in the 16th Century in Britain and in the 1800's in America. The tomato plant is evidently native to the Americas making farming easy and plentiful, and allowing the fruit to become a must-have part of a modern healthy diet.
Tomato farming starts with location and soil preparation; it requires a temperate climate, lots of sunshine and organic, well-drained soil. Prepare a raised bed, about 6 to 8 inches high, and treat and fertilize the soil several weeks before planting (mid to late May). Place plants several feet apart and keep them well watered (water in the evenings, not before the sun hits). Use cages to help promote strength and to support the weight of the branches as the tomato plants grow. Also, prune and tie branches back when necessary; tomato plants are easily manipulated and will often produce more with your assistance.
Continue to water and fertilize throughout the growing season for a bountiful harvest. Let the tomatoes grow until they show only a hint of color, then pick them. Let the fruit continue to ripen in your kitchen for several days, letting it come to full color for the best flavor. This prevents tomatoes from bruising or being eaten by birds and other animals while on the vine, and doesn't compromise any flavor. As you continue to pick and prune your plant, it will continue to produce fruit through the entire growing season and even into the fall.
Tomatoes are a very versatile fruit, not only in preparation and culinary uses, but also in their farming capabilities. Tomatoes prefer a temperate climate but are capable of growing in extreme temperatures and weather changes, allowing them to grow most everywhere. They are vines that can stretch and grow and continue to produce, even when left alone to grow in the wild. Tomato plants can be transplanted, grown indoors, trimmed and pruned to fit your gardening needs and to produce as much or as little as you desire. It is this multifaceted trait that allows for tomatoes to be a staple in the modern American diet, as well as in many other cultures world-wide.
Not only are tomatoes packed with flavor and relatively easy to grow, but they are a nutritious staple in a healthy diet. Tomatoes are rich with Lycopene, a healthy antioxidant that fights against heart disease and various forms of cancer. They contain loads of vitamins and minerals that meet daily dietary needs and promote healthy skin, hair growth, strong bones and teeth. Each serving of tomatoes provides you with half of your daily requirement of vitamin C, another healthy antioxidant that lowers blood pressure fights against daily germ exposure. Tomatoes are also unique in that they hold their nutritional value and health benefits in all forms: raw, stewed, canned, cooked, etc.
Another benefit to tomato farming is that it helps promote the green revolution because almost anyone can grow a tomato garden and support their own needs. The healthier the space for the plant to grow and the more love you give it, the more fruit it will produce. Home-grown tomatoes not only taste better, but they will save you money and provide for an entire season.
There are thousands of different types of tomatoes and choosing a type to grow may be difficult. Choose plants that will flourish in the garden bed you have prepared and buy multiple varieties each season to find a favorite. The best are heirloom tomatoes, old varieties of non-domestic, cross-blended tomatoes with great color and flavor (usually they have been passed down for years). There are also plum tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, beefsteak tomatoes, salad tomatoes, paste tomatoes, etc. Tomatoes will grow and produce from early summer into the early fall, so create a mixed bed that will support all of your fruit uses and needs, try different recipes and enjoy!
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