A Muddled Past
The history of the tomato is long and, at times, very confusing! Andrew F Smith’s “The Tomato in America” states that tomatoes probably originated in the highlands of the west coast of south America. Tomatoes were a favorite of the Aztecs as early as 500 b.C., in southern Mexico and adjacent areas, and they preferred the smaller cherry-like tomatoes. The larger, lumpy variant is believed to have been selected in central America after a spontaneous mutation, and it’s probably the ancestor of all the modern cultivars.
Today’s varieties of tomatoes originate from two main predecessors: currant tomatoes and “Matt’s Wild Cherry” varieties. They both originate from the native tomato plants in eastern Mexico.
While most people may think they know everything there is to know about a tomato, the truth is that history has a muddled, confused view of the tomato, and even needed the Supreme Court to make an official ruling as to whether this amazing plant will be considered a vegetable or a fruit. It turns out that the tomato is both! According to the Supreme Court the tomato is a vegetable, however botanically the tomato is a fruit. Confused? Regardless of whether you consider the tomato a fruit or a vegetable it is still an amazing plant that is fun to grow yourself.
There are actually a wide variety of tomatoes available, and each offers there own unique qualities and challenges. A group of tomatoes that have recently reached popularity amongst private cultivators are heirloom tomatoes. Because there are many cultivars, the heirloom can be a chosen based on personal preference and environment. So whether you decide on a more traditional tomato plant or want to try your hand at something a bit more unique the heirlooms can prove a fun and exciting way to grow.
One of the greatest things about the heirlooms is the tremendous variety in which they come. One of the most well known heirlooms, which also lends to their popularity, is the Brandywine. The Brandywine has excellent flavor and long history. Although the Brandywine reached the height of its popularity in the 1980’s from a farmer named Ben Quinsenberry, it has been noted in history books dating back to the late 1800’s. While this plant takes a while to mature (typically 80-100 days) and has a relatively low yield per plant the outcome is always worth the wait. The Brandywine boasts a large pinkish-fleshed tomato that is unrivaled in flavor and acidity. Join the millions of people who enjoy the Brandywine and give it a grow!
In contrast to the Brandywine, in terms of growth and yield, the Stupice heirloom is a reliable plant throughout the growing season, regardless of environment, and actually boasts a sweeter flavor as the weather goes from warm to cold. Many people agree that the Stupice is the best tasting plant for early season planting and grows incredibly well in hot and cold weather depending on the variety. That being said, the high yield, which produces quickly, and will continue to produce all season long, makes this a great tomato to plant first!
If you are looking for something a little more exotic in flavor, and overall appearance, then there is one tomato plant most definitely worth taking a look at. Whether you spell this next plant with an “o” or an “a”, Dogma’s Perfection is an eye grabbing veggie with amazing taste appeal. This tomato can add spice to any dinner table in ways that other tomatoes just can’t compete with. The medium sized tomatoes are clothed in a light yellow skin, complimented by delicate hairline red striping. If that’s not enough to grab your attention wait until you taste it! While the Dogma holds much of the traditional flavor expected of a ripened fruit, the unexpected overtones of tropical fruit are also present, including what some people describe as faint hints of lime within the juicy flesh. Don’t be surprised if you make this a staple in your garden for years to come.
Happy Tomato Growing!
Tomatoes are the number one most popular plant to grow in America’s backyard gardens- and we can see why! Growing Tomatoes is a fun and extremely fulfilling pastime. With so many varieties to choose from you are sure to find a never ending (and very delicious) adventure.