Although botanically a fruit, the tomato is commonly used as a vegetable in almost all cuisines in a number of different ways; both raw and cooked. It is used in salads, sauces and condiments as well as in a variety of ways in main dishes. It truly is a versatile fruit.
Tomatoes are rich in vitamin C and K and lycopene.
With a little care and the right soil and environment one can enjoy tasty tomatoes grown at home.
Requirements to grow Tomatoes
Light and temperature
Tomatoes grow well in a temperature range of 10°C to 35°C in a sunny location. This sun loving plant needs 6 to 8 hours of sun for best growth.
- Plant from March to April for a harvest in June to July.
- Plant in September through October for harvesting in December through January.
- Tomatoes can usually be harvested in about 60 to 80 days after planting.
Grow plants in a rich, moist, porous loamy soil with a PH level of 6.0 to 7.0. A slightly acidic soil yields best results.
- Sow seeds in a soil prepared with aged cow dung manure. Do not sow deep and keep in shade until germination occurs.
- Sprouting usually occurs in 10 – 15 days.
- Place seedlings in a sunny position so as to prevent leggy plants.
- Transplant healthy saplings with enough spacing to ensure they receive proper sunlight and good air circulation.
- If growing in containers then transplant the seedlings individually into at least a 12 inch pot.
- Transplant deep to encourage the roots to grow stronger. Tomato stems have tiny hairs which form a robust root system when they come in contact with soil.
- Support the plant with stakes or a trellis as it can bend under the weight of the fruit.
- Suckers are growths that appear in the junction between the stem and a branch. Remove these for stronger growth of the main stem. These suckers can be propagated to produce new plants.
- Prune the lower branches for good air circulation and prevention of fungal growth.
- Keep the soil moist, but do not over water.
- Over-watering attracts fungus and can cause fruit splitting. Water the base of the plant and not the foliage as this attracts fungus.
- Mulch with dried leaves and dried grass clippings to maintain the moisture of the soil.
- Rotate the plant pot on a regular basis so that all sides of the plant get an equal amount of sun.
- Spray Neem oil water to protect from aphids and caterpillars.
- The tomato flower contains both male and female parts so only movement of plant by the wind is needed for pollination to occur. Slightly shaking the plant or tapping the flowers aids pollination.
Propagation by suckers
Remove suckers and place in water. These will start to grow roots in about two weeks. They can then be planted in a good porous soil. These plants grow faster and provide better fruiting in comparison to the mother plant.
- Tomatoes are heavy feeders. Add gobar ki khaad ( well rotted cow dung manure) to the top soil once a week.
- Every 15 days add a fertiliser rich in calcium and phosphorus. This can be in the form of a good organic liquid fertiliser such as Jeevamrutha.
- Calcium can also be given in the form of bonemeal, wood ash ( rakh) and eggshell dust. This helps keep the soil acidic and prevent fruit end rot.
- Phosphorus helps maintain a stronger root system and can be given in the form of rock phosphate or dried, powdered banana peels.
Recipe for Tomato Pickle
- Tomato – 1 kg, medium sized, washed and quartered
- Tamarind – 1 lemon size ball
- Hot water – 1 cup ( for tamarind)
- Red chili powder – 2 -3 tbsp (according to taste)
- Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
- Asafetida/ Hing – 2 pinches
- Oil – 1/4 cup
- Jaggery powder- 1 serving spoon
- Mustard seeds – 2 tbsp dry roasted and ground
- Fenugreek seeds – 1 tbsp dry roasted and ground
- Place the chopped tomatoes in a wide and deep non-stick pan on a medium heat , and cover with a lid. Let the tomatoes gradually mash and cook in their own water. It will take approximately 20 minutes. Stir frequently so that they reduce evenly.
- Boil the tamarind in water to extract all the pulp/juice out of it. Switch off after 5 minutes and once it cools down a bit extract the pulp. Strain the water and pulp mixture and set aside.
- Once the tomatoes are simmered and reduced such that all the water is cooked, add the prepared tamarind extract and reduce further until thick and dehydrated.
- Add the jaggery powder and cook for two minutes.
- In another wok/ non stick pan on medium heat dry roast 2 tablespoons of mustard seeds, they will start popping after 30 seconds. Once they settle, transfer to a dry bowl. Next, dry roast the fenugreek seeds, make sure you don’t burn them, once they change color (light brown) transfer to a bowl and let them cool down.
- Grind roasted mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds into a fine powder.
- Add the red chili powder, fresh roasted powder and salt to the simmering tomato mix. Combine well and let it simmer further.
- Add oil to a wok (use the same wok used to dry roast). When hot add the mustard seeds and once they pop add asafetida/ hing and immediately pour into the simmering tomato mix.
- Mix well and let it cook for 5 minutes. Switch off the heat and allow the mixture to cool.
- When cool store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.