If you’re a gardener who likes to grow healthy foods for your own consumption, tomatoes are probably already pretty close to the top of the list of plants that you cultivate.
And even though technically a fruit and not a vegetable at all, when we think of fresh “veggies”, tomatoes certainly come to mind.
Tomatoes are not all that difficult for the home gardener to grow. They can be affected by a variety of problems, but none so troublesome as to cause you to avoid adding at least a few plants to your food-producing garden and enjoying the many health benefits of eating fresh tomatoes.
You can always find healthy young tomato plants in your garden center as planting time grows near; or start your own seeds indoors, if you like, and then transplant to your garden as the weather warms up a bit.
Tomatoes are of the indeterminate variety, meaning they tend to continue to bear fruit up until frost; or they may be determinate, meaning they tend to bear most of their fruit all at once and then stop. In general, the older, better known heirloom tomatoes are indeterminate, like the Big Boy and Early Girl varieties for example.
Plant several different kinds and see what grows and bears best for you. This will also give you a chance to determine which varieties best please your taste buds.
Locate your tomato plants in an area of your garden to receive maximum sunlight, and leave plenty of space between plants to allow for good air circulation and room for you to move around easily among the plants as they grow larger.
Once your plants are in your garden, mulch them well with clean straw, “cage” them for support, and provide enough water to keep the plants from drying out but don’t overdo it, as too much water can lead to problems with the fruit rotting and splitting.
As the tomatoes begin to ripen, bring them indoors and prepare to meet their goodness.
The kitchen window ledge makes a nice “staging area” for the fruits that still need a few days to ripen--it’s fun to watch them darken into their rich red brilliance.
The health benefits of eating tomatoes are numerous. Tomatoes are high in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and iron.
However, the most noteworthy health consideration in consuming tomatoes is the fact that they are higher in levels of Lycopene than any other fruit or vegetable.
Lycopene is an anti-oxidant that helps fight free radicals in the body. Studies have shown Lycopene’s value in fighting cancer, high cholesterol, heart disease, and vision problems.
And while many fruits and vegetables lose much of their nutrients in the process of cooking, the available units of Lycopene actually increase when the tomato is heated. This means that not only can you enjoy the delicious nutrition of tomatoes eaten fresh from the garden, but they become even healthier for you when cooked into soups, stews, sauces, casseroles, or added to pizza and pasta dishes.
Try adding a few tomato plants to your garden and a few fresh or cooked tomatoes to your diet. Here’s to your good health.