There is something about a lush, green area in your home…be it a big garden in your house or a small balcony! Whether it be sunflowers, daisies, yellow tomatoes or a bright red chilli plant, they all add to the beauty of your garden and not to forget, the functionality! Have you been pottering around in your garden? What have you been growing? Planted any ‘Amaranth’ yet, as we spoke about last time? These little beauties are easy to grow, even for a non gardener, giving tremendous results. If you haven’t yet ventured out into this ‘get your hands dirty’ sphere, then, have a go at growing some tomatoes as it will serve as a gentle nudge to help you get ‘green fingers’. There is nothing more satisfying than using your home grown vegetables for your salads and cooking! Agree?
Before you start this little project, ever wonder about what can be done with those tomatoes? Chopping them up for salads is good, turning them into a chutney isn’t bad either and for me the best is just taking a ripe tomato off the branch and popping it into the mouth, along with some pepper! Just sublime! Of course, you can roast them, stir-fry them, marinate them, sun-dry or oven-dry them…whichever form you consume them in, they are packed full of goodness and taste…it’s hard not to like them.
While tomatoes are widely considered to be a vegetable, botanically they’re a fruit—a berry, to be exact. Tomatoes are native to South America and came to India by way of Portuguese explorers during the early 16th century. Because tomatoes thrive in warm, sunny conditions with no severe frost, the plants took well to Indian soils. Did you know that Andhra Pradesh in India leads tomato growth. Not far behind is Karnataka….rather interesting that none of the North Indian states seem to appear in the top list but do use large quantities of tomatoes in the cooking!! Never mind that fact, this post is about growing your own tomatoes. So, without getting distracted, should we have a quick look at some of the varieties and how best to grow them?
There are a large number of varieties to choose from – Italian Roma, Cherry tomatoes – red or yellow, Beefstake tomatoes, San Marzano heirloom and several hybrid ones too. So which ones would you like to grow? Heirloom or hybrid? I have learnt that if you want to be able to plant seeds from the tomatoes you grow and get a plant just like the one you started with a great burst of flavour, use heirlooms. If you are looking for disease-resistant, high yield plants, then you could go for the hybrids and I believe, if it’s taste you are after, then stick to the heirloom ones.
Tomatoes come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, pretty much like anything else. Cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, pear tomatoes are rather easy. They take less tim to grow and of course are packed with sweetness. These are also likely to be disease resistant.
There are hundreds of kinds of slicing tomatoes, including the humungous Beefsteak. They come in shades of red, even yellow and sometimes even a shade of pink. The brighter red this tomato is, the more packed with flavour it will be. The yellow ones are a bit milder but great in salsa or salads and the pink one (don’t see these around very often!) are apparently the mildest of the lot. If you are looking for a tomato to accompany your spicy burgers, falafels or kebabs, then the small cherry, grape, or even the pear tomato will go beautifully. But if you want a nice, big, thin slice of tomato (easy to cut, without losing its shape!) to sit prettily next to the mozzarella or next to large rings of onions, then you ought to be growing the large slicing varieties. However, I use tomatoes mostly for creating sauces, combining it with onions and garlic or sometimes even just the nice, juicy tomato by itself, mixed together with several herbs, coriander or basil…depending on what I’m cooking. In this scenario, I will be using the Roma tomato as it will give me that perfect gravy or sauce, without unnecessary amounts of water seeping out!
The best advice I could give you to be trot along to your local nursery, armed with this knowledge (to ask intelligent questions!) and get yourself the ones that are just right for you!
To begin with, tomatoes need abundant sunshine and water, but when growing them, avoid not only the winter and the rains, but also the peak of harsh summer during its life cycle, when starting this project. Ready to read more? Take a seat…
TomTato or not! For me, a pure tomato plant will do for starters. Get some pots for your balcony or terrace, get your hands dirty….and then very soon, enjoy the fruit of your hard work! Fancy some more reading on growing this wonderful fruit/ vegetable (that’s a topic for another post, another debate, another time!). Go get yourself a cuppa and click away…
Buy your tomato plants and seeds from here:
- Garden Guru
- Indian Gardening – you can get seeds for large beefstake varieties to small cherry tomatoes
- Kraft Seeds
So, is this what you are doing this weekend? Therapeutic and fairly risk-free!
Have a happy, green weekend, people!
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