Tomato guide, how to grow tomaotes,How to Grow Tomatoes:

The tomato is botanically a fruit, but is considered a vegetable for culinary purposes. Tomatoes are native to South America, but it is not known when it was first domesticated. It was brought over to Europe during the colonization of the Americas and was first used in Spain and spread from there. In Italy it was initially used as a table decoration before being used in food. It was so easily grown in the Mediterranean climate that it was quickly adapted into their cuisines. It took much longer for the British and their American colonies to accept it as food. They initially thought of it as poisonous. Although it is a perennial plant in warm climates, it is grown as an annual in the cooler climates. It is now one of the most commonly grown vegetables in home gardeners. The reasons for this are obvious, the taste is so amazing when picked right off the vine, they are fairly easy to grow, and they are heavy producers. The tomato is a good choice to include in your garden.

Tomato, tomato factsPlanting and Growing:

Tomatoes like loose, fertile soil. Prepare the garden in the fall by turning 1 inch (2.5 cm) of good compost and dry leaves into the top 4 inches (10 cm) of soil. For most growing regions, it is best to start the tomato early inside, or from purchased transplants. Sow indoors 4 weeks before the last frost and transplant after danger of frost.
Start seeds indoors by pressing moist, potting soil into small planting cells or pots. Using a pencil, drill a small hole in the soil and sow 3 seeds. Lightly cover the seeds and place in a window that receives full sun or under growing lights. Seeds will germinate in 1 to 2 weeks. As they grow they need to be transplanted into larger, deeper pots. Transplant before the plant begins to produce flowers.
Tomatoes are a long season crop, most maturing after 80 days. In cooler climates tomatoes can be transplanted much earlier, before the last frost date. This takes additional work but will be well worth the effort. Start seeds indoors 8 weeks before the last frost and transplant 3 weeks before last frost date. One week before transplanting, place a row cover or Wall-O-Water where the plant will be planted to warm the soil. After planting, water the plant every other day and fertilize with a nitrogen rich, organic fertilizer to stimulate growth. If using a Wall-O-Water, be sure to cover the top on frosty nights by stuffing some newspaper inside.
Plant tomato seedlings 18 to 24 inches (45 to 50 cm) apart in rows spaced 36 inches (90 cm) for optimal production. When planting, bury the plant up to the first set of true leaves, or even deeper, depending on the size of the plant. Place either a cage around them after removing the row cover, or have posts ready for tying them up. This will help keep vines and tomatoes off the ground, which is very important to control disease and bugs.
Tomatoes need a lot of water when they are growing and forming fruits. In the hot summer months when green tomatoes are on the vine, it is sometimes necessary to water once in the morning and once at night. If tomatoes begin to split, they may be too wet. On very hot days, tomato leaves tend to curl; this is normal unless there are brown spots on the leaves.
Tomatoes need very little fertilizer if planted in rich soils. Watch for slow growth, as this may indicate the need for nitrogen. If you do fertilize, do so lightly, as it may stimulate the plant to grow instead of producing fruits. Also, watch the fruits for brown spots on the blossom end, called blossom end rot. This is typically a sign of calcium deficiency or low watering.
After tomatoes begin to blossom it is good to “stimulate” your plants. Do this by running your hands through the leaves and gently shaking the vines. Tomatoes are wind pollinated, and doing this encourages new flower production and fertilization.

Harvesting and Preserving:

Pick tomatoes when they are a deep red. There is no need to pick a homegrown tomato early, so let them ripen on the vine; however, before pulling the plant at the end of the season, pick all ripe, partially ripe, and large green tomatoes. Place them one layer deep in a box and lay a few pieces of newspaper on top or in a paper bag folded at the top. Check them frequently and throw out any that show signs of spoiling.
Tomatoes can be preserved by freezing or bottling, but bottling produces a better end product.
To freeze, wash and core the tomatoes. Then, place them on a cookie sheet in the freezer until they are frozen and pack in bags. You can also blanch and peel the tomatoes before freezing. They can be slightly thawed to put in salads, but don’t wait too long or they turn mushy.
To dry tomatoes, wash, core them and cut to ¼ inch (7 mm) thick, and then dry in dehydrator at 120 degrees F (50 degrees C) for 8 to 10 hours or until crispy. You can also use a conventional oven at 120 degrees F (50 degrees C) turning the slices a few times. To sundry the tomatoes, dry in the sun for 1 to 2 days until crispy, making sure you bring them in at night or if it is going to rain. Put in airtight containers.
*To make the Italian sun-dried tomatoes, you can pour boiling water over dried pieces to partly hydrate them. Then, put in clean jars and fill with extra-virgin olive oil. Use within a few months.
Prepare tomatoes for bottling by running the bottles in the dishwasher on a warm setting, and leave them going until they are ready to use. Also, place some water on the stove on the low setting to warm the lids.
Blanch tomatoes for 30-60 seconds to loosen skins. Then, transfer them quickly into a bowl of ice water to cool.
1. Peel tomatoes and you can then either cut in half, or put in the bottles whole.
2. Fill the bottles until ½ inch head space and then pour in 1 tablespoon for pints and 2 tablespoons for quarts of lemon juice to help preserve. Then, ladle in hot water until ½ inch head space, and use a plastic or wood spoon along the inside of the bottle to press out any air bubbles.
3. Wash the outside of jars, including the rim. Get lids ready; place the lid on and screw on the ring, snugly, but not overly tight.
4. Process in a boiling water canner for pints 35 minutes and quarts 40 minutes.
5. After they are cool, check each jar lid to see if it has a proper seal by pressing on the center for any give. You can also gently pull up on the lid to double check.

Another product can be made with Roma tomatoes is salsa. Here is a recipe that will become a staple at your house.
• 1 lug tomatoes, peeled and cut up (26 lbs or 11.5 kg)
• 6 yellow onions & 6 or 7 white onions, chopped accordingly to taste, large or fine
• 20 Jalapenos, finely chopped
• 20 Anaheim peppers, finely chopped
• 6 Banana peppers, finely chopped
• 20 Tomatillos, finely chopped
• 2 c. white vinegar
• 1/2 c. salt
Combine ingredients and boil down to desired consistency. Use a food processer and blend up everything instead of hand cutting. This is not a chunky salsa, and it is very tasty. Put only the seeds from 5-10 of the jalapenos and none from the other peppers. Be sure to wear gloves when cutting up the peppers. They can burn your skin. Bottle and process 25 to 30 minutes.

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