|Scientific Name : Lycopersicon Esculentum L|
|Family : Solanaceae (the Poisonous Nightshade family)|
|Colour : Red, yellow and orange|
|Common names : Tomato|
|Best Season : Throughout the year|
|Nutritional Value : 18 kcal, 3 g carbohydrate, 1 g protein, 0.2 g fat, 10 mg calcium, 0.4 mg iron,0.6 mg vitamin A, 25 mg vitamin C per 100 g serving.|
Tomato (latin-juicy wolf peach) is a popular, versatile, easily grown plant with a great tasting fruit. Originally cultivated during prehistoric times by the Indians in South America, they were long believed to be poisonous. But now tomato is the favourite of home vegetable gardeners and is widely cultivated and used throughout the world.
Tomato is technically a fruit not a vegetable but, they belong to the vegetable garden. This warm-season perennials have a variety of cultivars which vary in size and shape from the tiny and sweet cherry style tomatoes to big juicy and meaty beefsteak tomatoes. Tomatoes are consumed either cooked or raw and are low in calories and an excellent source of Vitamins A and C. Uncooked tomatoes also provide Vitamin E.
Characteristically tomato plants are erect, branched, aromatic and covered with glandular hairs. The base may become woody. A compound leaf has an arrangement of leaflets or pinnae in two rows along the axis and is coarsely toothed on the edges. Yellow flowers are borne in terminal inflorescences appearing extra-axillary or lateral. After flowering, tomatoes require 50-60 days to reach fruit maturity. The fruit is botanically classed as a berry. Although the full size of the fleshy fruit, called a berry, is attained in half that time, the later stage of maturity is marked by external color change with coinciding internal chemical changes.Varieties
Tomatoes vary in size, taste and growth patters. Some are determinate, they grow only to a certain height and they flower and bear fruits only within a certain period of time. Indeterminate varieties grow, flower and set fruit over the entire growing season. Some varieties are resistant to certain diseases indicated by one or more letters written beside their names. Some varieties are Small Red Cherry, Large Red Cherry, Red Pear, Yellow Pear etc which have large vines with small fruits, lemon boy, jubilee and sunray with yellow and orange fruits, beefsteak, beef master etc with large fruits and so on.Propagation and Planting
Tomatoes are propagated from seeds. Seeds can be sown in pots or seed trays. When the seedlings are large enough to handle they can be transplanted to a pot or on the ground. Tomato plants are also available from nurseries. Prepare a planting hole on the ground about 18 inches across and 12 inches deep and plant the tomato plant. The spacing between plants depends upon the variety and method of culture. Space dwarf plants 12 inches apart in the row, staked plants 15 to 24 inches apart and fenced or ground bed plants 24 to 36 inches apart. Some particularly vigorous indeterminate varieties may need 4 feet between plants and 5 to 6 feet between rows.
Tomatoes are warm-season plants and should be planted in the warm months after danger of frost has passed. They grow, flower and produce best when they are planted in the sunniest, hottest part of the garden.
The soil for growing tomatoes should be fertile, well-drained but moisture-retentive, with a pH in the range 5.5 7.0 and well supplied with organic matter and nutrients. Proper preparation of soil goes a long way in helping the plant grow healthy. The soil should be mixed with well rotted manure or other organic matter and a balanced fertilizer say 2-3 pounds per 100 square feet must be added before planting.
Plants must be kept well-watered at all times and container-grown plants in particular will require more watering as fruit develops. Water directly to the roots and keep the soil around moist. If possible, keep water off the leaves. Fertilize on a regular basis. Early applications should be high in nitrogen. As blossoming occurs, switch to applications higher in Phosphorus and Potassium. Too much nitrogen may result in lots of lush green leaves but little fruit. Potash supply is particularly important for the development of flavour and ensuring a healthy and good crop.
Shortly after planting, tomato plants should be given proper support by tying the plant to a stake or by using a cage. Stakes are cheaper and they can be between 4-6 feet tall depending on the type of tomato plant. Wire tomato cages are often used to support the wines. When properly supported, tomatoes require a relatively small amount of space, yet are capable of producing 8 to 10 pounds or more of fruit per plant.Problems and Care :
Tomatoes that grows in wet, humid conditions are susceptible to plant disease and leaf diseases. Dark brown or blackish spots will appear, followed by yellowing or browning usually to those leaves on the lower branches. Remove infected leaves as soon as they are noticed to help reduce spread. Tomatoes are also susceptible to some insect problems with cutworms and a few other garden pests.
Mulching will help to prevent weeds, reduce leaf diseases, it will also help the distribution of water, and will generally make the tomato plants stronger. Mulches such as leaves, grass clippings, compost, straw, can be spread around to enrich the soil once the plants are set.
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