Did you know that for centuries our pioneer forefathers thought that tomatoes were poisonous? Tomatoes originated in the Andean regions of South America. To prove they were not deadly, a farmer from New Jersey publicly ate a tomato on the Salem County Courthouse lawn. Today, we cannot imagine life without them. Tomatoes are not only edible, but a valuable source of food minerals and vitamins.
There is nothing in the garden to equal the tomato. This large, red, ripe fruit simply eaten out of hand is a prize. The numerous varieties vary greatly in plant form and fruit type, ranging from the small “currant” size through cherry, plum, and pear forms to the varieties, now most used in cultivation, which bear large, oblate fruits, 4 inches and more in diameter. All forms include both red and yellow fruited varieties. The new hybrids produce bigger yields and are more disease resistant.
Is the tomato a vegetable or a fruit? The French first termed it, “the apple of love”. Today, the tomato is used as a vegetable in a hundred or more ways. Salads, soups, sandwiches, pizzas, and creole cooking could not exist without tomatoes.
The tomato is propagated principally from seed which in temperate regions, is started in greenhouses, hotbeds, or cold frames, the plant being set out in the field when danger of frost is past. The plants thrive best in well fertilized, sandy loams, but grow well on almost any type of fertile, well-drained soil.
Salvaging tomatoes to use during the winter has long been a challenge to gardeners and country people. Tomatoes should always be kept in the refrigerator since cold surroundings stop the ripening process. Try this trick to peel a fresh tomato: dip the tomato first into boiling water, then immediately in cold water. The skin slips off, leaving a firm whole tomato.
Ripe tomatoes may be wrapped and frozen whole to be used in cooking with 2 months. To freeze green tomatoes, slice and dip in cornmeal; package and freeze. To serve, deep-fry without thawing. A great addition to any meal.
Green tomatoes that will not have a chance to ripen because of impending frosts can be collected and used in casseroles, pies, relishes, and puddings. Anything you can do with an apple, can be done just as well with a green tomato.
Tomatoes are one of the easiest foods to can. If they are prime quality, but not overripe, they may be processed in a boiling water bath. Contact your County Agricultural Extension Agent to find out what varieties are recommended in your locality.
Here is a great recipe using tomatoes.