Home-grown heirloom tomatoes are a thing of beauty. There is probably no simpler way of demonstrating the joy of gardening than by presenting home-grown and store-bought tomatoes side by side. Organic tomatoes grown with care have superior colour, size, texture, sweetness, aroma and of course, flavour. The seeds and plants are easy to grow so even new gardeners can expect a good harvest.
By growing several varieties of tomatoes, the home or market gardener can expect diversity and abundance from early summer to cool fall temperatures. It’s worth being prepared for the sudden bounty of ripe tomatoes in mid-late summer here on the Coast. We present a list of seeds below for tomatoes that can be eaten fresh, canned, cooked or sun-dried. Included, are many varieties that are excellent for use in sauces, salsas and paste.
Tomatoes first grew as wild, cherry-size berries in the South America. The tomato as we know it today, was developed in Mexico where it was known as tomatil and traveled to Europe by boat with the returning conquistadors.
Upon arrival in Italy, the heart-shaped tomato was considered an aphrodisiac, thus tomato in Italian, poma amoris, means “love apple.”
Regarded as poison by American colonists because of its relation to deadly nightshade, the tomato’s reputation was saved by Robert Gibbon Johnson, who stood on the New Jersey courthouse steps in 1820, and ate a tomato with no adverse effects—to the amazement of the town. In 1893, the U.S. Supreme Court over-ruled Mother Nature, declaring that tomatoes were not fruits, but vegetables. But a tomato is by definition a fruit because it is the ripened ovary of a seed plant.
The development of “tougher” tomatoes and the invention of the mechanical harvester saved the tomato processing industry in the early 1960’s, which had struggled with labor problems since WWII. Today, 100 percent of processed tomatoes are machine harvested.
Summer-ripened tomatoes are a good source of vitamin C and beta carotene as well as the antioxidant lycopene. They also contain compounds that block cancer-causing nitrosamines. We use the convention of Bush to mean determinate (fruit set more or less all at once on short plants) and Vine to mean indeterminate (fruit set over a longer time on tall growing plants) similar to the difference between bush and pole beans.