Tomatoes

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Lawn & Garden

Although commonly thought of as a vegetable, tomatoes are actually a fruit. They are favored in salads and are easy to grow in vegetable gardens. In this article, we will discuss the different types of tomatoes, how to grow them, how to select and serve them, and their health benefits.

About Tomatoes

Tomatoes are tender perennials that are grown as annuals. They have weak stems and lobed and toothed leaves that have a distinctive odor. The yellow flowers grow in clusters. Most tomatoes have vining growth habits and need a fair amount of space. Some tomatoes are described as bush varieties that will save space, but they will still sprawl if not contained. Depending on the variety, tomatoes vary by the size and shape of the fruit (cherry, plum, pear, etc.), by their color (red, pink, yellow, orange), and by their use (slicing, canning, juicing).

Tomatoes & Tomato Recipes Image Gallery


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Tomatoes growing on the vine. See more
pictures of tomatoes & tomato recipes.

Tomatoes are categorized into two groups: determinate and indeterminate. The determinate tomato, also known as the bush tomato, will stop growing when the end buds set fruit, usually at about 3 feet tall. Determinate tomatoes seldom need staking, but a single stake or short cage will help keep them contained. Determinate varieties produce a crop of tomatoes that will ripen at the same time. This type of tomato is used for canning and processing.

On the other hand, the indeterminate tomato, also known as the vine tomato, continues to grow until it is killed by frost. Indeterminate tomatoes can get quite large, so they should be staked or caged. Staked and caged tomatoes provide cleaner fruit and less loss from rot, pests, or problems that occur in warm, humid areas. Additionally, they require less room for each plant.

Common Name: Tomato
Scientific Name: Lycopersicon lycopersicum
Hardiness: Tender (will die at first frost)

In the next section, we’ll provide tips on how to grow tomatoes.

Want more information about tomatoes? Try:

  • Tomato Recipes: Cook with this delicious plant.
  • How to Remove Tomato Stains: Have a spill? Learn how to get tomato stains out of everything.
  • Vegetable Gardens: Grow a full harvest of great vegetables this year.
  • Gardening: We answer your questions about all things that come from the garden.

Growing Tomatoes

Growing tomatoes is a popular pastime. There are many different types to choose from, including beefsteak, cherry, heirloom, and petite varieties for hanging baskets. Tall and rangy cherry types can be trained up a trellis or over an arch. Tomatoes grow best when the daytime temperature is between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. They stop growing above 95 degrees Fahrenheit. If nighttime temperatures are above 85 degrees Fahrenheit, the fruit will not turn red. Tomatoes require full sun and warm, well-drained soil.


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Stake tomatoes to help them grow.

To start growing tomatoes, you can either plant seeds in the garden on the date of the last frost or use transplants bought from a reputable nursery or garden center, or ones you started six to eight weeks before planting. If using transplants, space them 18 to 36 inches apart depending on how you plan to support them. When planting, disturb the roots as little as possible and set them deeply if the stems are leggy or crooked. The time from planting to harvest ranges from 50 to 180 days, depending on the variety. Ripe tomatoes should feel firm, not squashy or too hard. To grow sweet, delicious tomatoes, prune the plants to direct maximum energy into tomato production based on your desired yield, choose between determinate and indeterminate varieties, and stake your tomato cages to prevent uprooting. In the next section, you can learn about the different types of tomatoes.

Vining tomatoes are also known as indeterminate tomato types. These tomatoes keep growing in size throughout the season and will only stop when the first frost kills them. Fixed in size, determinate tomato types are smaller than vining tomatoes. Although cherry tomatoes are smaller, they are considered to be sweeter in taste by most people.

Indeterminate tomato types include:

  • Avalanch F, which produces medium-sized red fruit after 77 days of harvest.
  • Beefmaster VFN, a large and red tomato that resists cracking.
  • Better Boy VFN, which has large, round, red fruit and takes 72 days to harvest.
  • Better Girl VFN, which gives early, round, red, and meaty fruit after 62 days of harvest.
  • Champion VFNT, which provides an early, large beefsteak-type fruit after 62 days of harvest.
  • Early Girl V matures in 54 days.
  • Whopper VFNT, which produces very large, meaty, red fruit after 70 days of harvest.
  • Pink Girl VFT, which gives a medium-sized fruit with pink skin after 76 days of harvest.
  • Golden Boy, which has medium-sized, round fruit that is bright yellow and is harvested after 80 days.
  • Brandywine, which is a popular heirloom with excellent flavor and is harvested after 80 days.

Determinate tomato types include:

  • Celebrity VFNT, which produces medium-sized, red, round fruit after 70 days of harvest.
  • Floramerica VF, an All America Selection that provides meaty, red, all-purpose fruit after 70 days of harvest.
  • The Juice VF, which has red, juicy fruit and is good for juice making, harvested after 65 days.

Cherry tomato types include:

  • Golden Gem, which is yellow and flavorful and harvested after 65 days.
  • Supersweet 100 VF, which is sweet and disease resistant and harvested after 65 days.
Types of Tomatoes
Early: Early Girl, Early Pick, First Lady, Glacier, Oregon Spring

Midseason: Better Boy, Big Beef, Big Boy, Big Girl, Celebrity, Delicious, Floramerica, Heatwave

Late: Homestead, Oxheart, Wonderboy, Supersteak, Beefmaster, Brandywine

Next, we will teach you how to choose and serve delicious tomatoes.

Want more information about tomatoes? Check out:

  • Tomato Recipes: Cook with this delicious plant.
  • How to Remove Tomato Stains: Learn how to get tomato stains out of everything.
  • Vegetable Gardens: Grow a full harvest of great vegetables this year.
  • Gardening: Get answers to your questions about all things garden-related.

Selecting Tomatoes

Tomatoes come in several groups, including cherry, grape, plum, and round slicing tomatoes. Cherry and grape tomatoes are bite-sized. Italian plum tomatoes are oval. Slicing tomatoes are large and round, perfect for sandwiches. Beefsteaks are a popular variety of slicing tomatoes.


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These tomatoes are perfect for slicing.

Even though you can find tomatoes year-round, it’s best to avoid eating the ones that are available in the wintertime. The most delicious tomatoes are the ones that have ripened on the vine, without any artificial methods to speed up the process. You might have to visit farmers’ markets to find them, and keep in mind that there is no standard definition for “vine-ripened.” Make sure you know your vendor before buying from them.

When shopping for tomatoes, look for ones that are firm, well-shaped, and have a strong aroma. They should be heavy for their size and slightly soft when gently squeezed, but not too mushy. One common mistake is putting tomatoes in the fridge, as the cold temperature ruins their taste and texture. It’s best to slice them just before serving, as their flavor fades once cut.

Tomatoes are a great addition to salads, pasta, soups, stews, and casseroles. They add flavor, color, and nutrition without adding too many calories. In the next section, we’ll discuss the health benefits of tomatoes.

If you’re interested in learning more about tomatoes, check out our tomato recipes, tips on peeling and seeding tomatoes, and how to remove tomato stains. We also offer advice on growing your own vegetable garden.

Health Benefits of Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a popular choice for low-calorie diets, as they’re naturally sweet and low in calories. They offer a range of health benefits, such as improving heart health, reducing the risk of cancer, and promoting healthy skin. Try incorporating more tomatoes into your diet for a healthy boost.


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The Tomato and Capers Crostini Recipe features tomatoes as the centerpiece.

Tomatoes are a commonly consumed food in the United States, prepared in a variety of ways such as raw, steamed, fried, stewed, crushed, pureed, or as a sauce. Despite being thought of as a vegetable, tomatoes are actually classified as a fruit according to botany. They are also an excellent source of vitamin C.

Benefits of Tomatoes for Health

While not packed with vitamins and minerals, tomatoes do contain a good amount of vitamin C, which is an important antioxidant for maintaining a healthy immune system.

Tomatoes also have beta-carotene and other carotenoids that can help prevent diseases, especially heart disease and cancer. One carotenoid, lycopene, may even reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Potassium, a possible stroke preventer, is also found in tomatoes.

Nutrition Facts of Fresh Tomatoes

Serving Size: 1 medium tomato

Calories 24
Fat 0 g
Saturated Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Carbohydrate 5 g
Protein 1 g
Dietary Fiber 1 g
Sodium 6 mg
Vitamin A 1,025 IU
Vitamin C 15 mg
Potassium 292 mg
Carotenoids 3,992 microgram

For more information on tomatoes, check out:

  • Tomato Recipes: A collection of delicious recipes using tomatoes.
  • Nutrition: Learn how tomatoes fit into your overall nutrition plan.
  • How to Remove Tomato Stains: Tips for removing tomato stains from clothing and other items.
  • Vegetable Gardens: Tips for growing a bountiful vegetable harvest.
  • Gardening: Answers to common questions about gardening.

This information is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice. The Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author, nor publisher assume any responsibility for any consequences resulting from following the information contained in this article, including any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action, or application of medication. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, nor does it replace the advice of a physician or other healthcare provider. Before beginning any treatment, the reader should seek the advice of their physician or other healthcare provider.

FAQ

1. What are the health benefits of eating tomatoes?

Tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamins C and K, potassium, and dietary fiber. They are also a good source of vitamin A, iron, and calcium. Studies have shown that eating tomatoes can help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer. Tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant that can protect against damage from free radicals. Lycopene has been linked to a reduced risk of prostate cancer and may also help protect against breast, lung, and stomach cancer. Tomatoes may also help improve vision and bone health.

2. How should I store tomatoes?

Tomatoes should be stored at room temperature, away from direct sunlight. If they are not yet ripe, they can be placed in a paper bag with an apple or banana to speed up the ripening process. Once they are ripe, they should be used within a few days. Avoid storing tomatoes in the refrigerator, as this can cause them to lose flavor and become mealy.

3. Can tomatoes cause allergies?

It is possible for some people to have an allergic reaction to tomatoes. Symptoms can include itching, hives, and swelling of the mouth, throat, and face. In severe cases, anaphylaxis can occur, which is a life-threatening reaction. If you experience any symptoms of an allergic reaction after eating tomatoes, seek medical attention immediately.

4. Can tomatoes be cooked in aluminum foil?

Yes, tomatoes can be cooked in aluminum foil. However, it is important to use caution when cooking acidic foods in aluminum foil, as the acid can react with the foil and leach aluminum into the food. This can affect the taste of the food and may also have health implications. If you choose to cook tomatoes in aluminum foil, make sure the foil does not come into direct contact with the food.

5. Are tomatoes a fruit or a vegetable?

Tomatoes are technically a fruit, as they develop from the ovary of a flowering plant and contain seeds. However, they are commonly referred to as a vegetable in cooking and nutrition. In 1893, the United States Supreme Court even ruled that tomatoes should be classified as a vegetable for the purposes of taxation.

6. What are some popular dishes that use tomatoes?

Tomatoes are a versatile ingredient that can be used in a wide variety of dishes. Some popular tomato-based dishes include pasta with tomato sauce, caprese salad, gazpacho, and bruschetta. Tomatoes are also commonly used in pizza toppings, soups, stews, and salsa. In addition, they can be roasted, grilled, or stuffed for a delicious and healthy side dish or appetizer.

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