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Takeaway: The previous post is all well and good, but how do tomatoes actually grow? We learn about the different kinds of tomatoes (heirloom vs. hybrid, determinate vs. indeterminate) and growing times. See the first part here.
(By the way, anything in green takes you to another website or page.)
Today, a plethora of tomatoes are available to the average consumer including heirloom varieties, improved hybrid varieties, and tasteless, mealy cardboard from Florida in December. Cornell reports estimates of 35,000 to 45,000 varieties.
Heirloom tomatoes are open-pollinated plants from which the seeds can be saved and planted the next year to produce more of the same tomatoes. They’re also a treat for the eyes. Check these out if you think I’m kidding.
Hybrid tomatoes, are plants that have been cross-bred (but aren’t necessarily GMO) to produce desirable traits, like increased disease and drought resistance. Hybrids are typically more reliable that heirlooms. You can reuse the seeds the next season, but you’ll likely have one of the sub varieties that went into creating the hybrid.
Another distinguishing tomato trait is determinate versus indeterminate. Determinate varieties, like many Roma tomatoes, grow to a compact 4 to 5 feet, set fruit at the same time and all the tomatoes become ripe within a two week time period. Indeterminates, on the other hand, produce fruit whenever they feel up to the task and will continue producing until cold weather sets-in or another limiting factor arises (did you remember to water this week?).
Within 6 to 12 days of planting, seeds germinate. If started indoors, plants are recommended to have been started 6 to 8 weeks before the anticipated transplant, which should be after evening temperatures are consistently above 45F. Much like me, tomatoes don’t enjoy cold weather, which also why we have to pull them out in the late fall. After the yellow flowers comes the tomatoes, generally within 60-80 days after transplanting.
Tomato plants are vines, hence the need to stake or cage most of the indeterminate varieties which can produce an earlier harvest, in addition to improving quality and reducing disease susceptibility. Although it may reduce total yield, produced tomatoes tend to be larger. This is one case where cage-free might not be better. 🙂
In places with very limited warm weather, like Alaska and Siberia, they have very early maturing plants that fruit within 50 days and to temps of 38F.
Have you grown tomatoes? Any favorites? Besides “volunteers”, one of my favorites is golden sweet pear.
Some handy tips from the Old Farmer’s Almanac:
- If your tomato plant still has fruit when the first hard frost threatens, pull up the entire plant and hang it upside down in the basement or garage. Pick tomatoes as they redden.
- Never refrigerate fresh tomatoes. Doing so spoils the flavor and texture that make up that garden tomato taste.
- To freeze, core fresh unblemished tomatoes and place them whole in freezer bags or containers. Seal, label, and freeze. The skins will slip off when they defrost.