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Tomato 101

January 19, 2011

If you are like most folks, tomatoes are your favorite homegrown vegetable. As long as you have full sun and are able to supply your plants with food and water, you will be rewarded with that fresh, juicy, delicious, tasty (are there enough adjectives?) treat we all love.

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Why am I bringing this subject up now? Well, I am tired of winter and writing about tomatoes helps me visualize the warmer months. And, I want to pass along a few tips to those of you who are getting ready to select your seeds in the coming weeks. This info will also be helpful to those of you who will be buying plants later in spring.

What to plant? There are hundreds of varieties from which to choose. Besides the range of colorful tomatoes (red, pink, orange, yellow, etc.) and the size and shape, there are some technical descriptors that can be useful.

Determinate varieties will be more compact and do not require staking. Since this type of tomato tends to produce a heavier crop over a several week period, it is a good choice for canning.

Indeterminate varieties grow vertically bearing tomatoes until frost, so cages or stakes are recommended.

Hybrid varieties have been developed by the plant breeders to resist or tolerate the wide range of diseases that can frustrate. Capital letters, such as V, F1, F2, EB, N, etc. signify the specific disease resistance you can expect. Hybrids also tend to produce more fruit on each plant.

Heirloom varieties have the textures and flavors that our grandparents enjoyed. When they found a tomato they liked, they saved the seed year to year. Since they were mainly interested in taste, they did not mind if there weren’t as many fruits per plant or if some of their plants got fungus, they just planted lots of plants.

I will jump on the subjects of seed starting and tomato growing another time. Until then, stay warm and think summer when you can grab a tomato right from the vine and take a big juicy bite.

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