Friday, June 29, 2007

Wolf Peaches

Solanum lycopersicum (means 'wolf peach')

There's red mulch, red supports, red water tubes... all especially for tomatoes, which when ripe, are red. It's my favorite color, too. I began seeing all the red accessories tomatoes could wear in the garden sometime last year and wondered what it was all about. Merely a ploy to dress things up, or was there something more to it?

Turns out,
tomatoes love red. Even when they're green. They aspire to be red, and it seems that red light, when reflected by surrounding red things, will stimulate their growth and production, even if they're exposed to it for just five minutes a day. That's the simple explanation.

Rather than purchase red mulch, I got some red plastic disposable plates and cut a hole in the center for the stem of the tomato plant and secured it at the base with some Earth Staples. So far, I've not seen any improvement in growth over last year, but we're also not experiencing a normal summer - with temperatures or rainfall - so that may account for some of it. But from what I understand, red light is supposed to increase the size and number of tomatoes, so maybe the plant itself won't be any larger.

This summer, we're growing just one plant of 'Mr. Stripey', which as you can guess, is striped! We're growing that one just for fun, and since Romie is the only one who eats fresh tomatoes, one plant will take care of us.

We've also got a few 'Sungold' plants - a cherry tomato known for its sweetness. I first learned of 'Sungold' when reading Stronger Than Dirt by Chris Losee and Kimberly Schaye. It's the story of an urban couple moving to upstate New York and starting their own business growing and selling cut flowers and vegetables. 'Sungold' was a best-seller for them, and I wanted to try them, so I bought some seeds from Kitchen Garden Seeds. Romie concurs - he thinks they're yummy, so I saved seeds from last year's crop and planted them again this year.

Vegetable or fruit?

Now there's a controversial subject. Botanically, the tomato is a fruit, as are cucumbers, pumpkins, eggplant, and zucchini. They're berries, to be precise about it. But we use tomatoes like a vegetable, and for taxation purposes in 1893, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the tomato to be a vegetable. This was an important and necessary action, because U.S. tariff laws apply a duty to vegetables, but not fruits. The USDA recognizes this ruling and classifies the tomato as a vegetable as well.¹

Now you know.

¹Wikipedia: "Tomato"
*Tomato photo from Wikipedia Commons


Carol Michel said...

I used red plastic mulch a few years ago and didn't notice a big difference, but there might have been less harvest without it. Who knows?

Some people like to put sugar on their tomatoes, so to them it must be a fruit; others like to put salt on them, so that's more like a vegetable.

I like mine plain and warmed by the sun!

Unknown said...

Mmmmmm. tomatoes...I like a little salt and some freshly ground pepper on mine, but with three little green knobs on our plants, it'll be a while yet before I see any ripe tomatoes here. But I'll succumb to field grown and ripened local tomatoes as soon as I see them.
Now look what you've done, made me crave tomatoes...guess I'll go eat strawberries to quell the urges...:-)

Alyssa said...

Gosh, at first I thought the tomato picture was yours! I've always found that cherry tomatoes to be really reliable - even in my part-sun garden. I'm growing Sungold this year too and I love them.

Keep us posted on "Mr Stripey" - I'd like to see him when he's ripe.


Bob said...

Wouldn't you know it...
You are singing the praises of growing 'em. And I was singing the praises (along with John Denver) of EATING 'EM in my blog post from Friday...

Marc said...

I didn't know there were red wall-o-waters. I still have a few green ones. I have yet to try the red plastic for tomatoes. I hope it works well for you!

What I have tried before is the Sun Gold tomatoes and I am growing them again this year. They are quite interesting. My kids call them Sweet-Tart tomatoes because if you eat them when they first turn yellow, they are super tart like the extreme sour candies that kids like. If you let them stay on the vine a bit longer, they turn more orange and THEN they are indeed the absolute sweetest tomato you can grow.

Have fun with your Sweet-Tart Tomatoes!

Matron said...

I love Sungold too! Really the tastiest tomato around. I am growing one called 'Tigerella' this year, it has stripes. I wonder if it's the same as your Mr Stripey?

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