Fruit and Vegetables

Tomato - Solanum lycopersicum

Tomato - Solanum lycopersicum

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Pomodoro is a solanacea, a relative of potatoes and aubergines; like potatoes it is native to Central and South America, and was imported into Europe already in the 1500s, by the first Spanish conquistadores; the common Italian name, pomo d'oro, derives from the fact that the first plants imported in Europe had yellow fruits.
The tomatoes, botanical name Solanum lycopersicum, are the fruits of annual plants, of medium size, generally creeping, which have a rapid development, so that they can grow, in a couple of months, up to two meters in length. The stems are thin, flexible, very branched; they carry large jagged leaves, covered with a thin down. The foliage of the solanum lycopersicum may cause mild skin irritation in susceptible individuals.

The shapes and colors

The tomato berries, in the botanical species, are golden yellow in color, sometimes orange; It is only for a couple of centuries that the red fruit cultivars have prevailed over all the others, even generating the conviction that tomatoes exist only in bright red. The cultivation of this plant has been taking place for thousands of years in Central and South America, from a couple of centuries in Europe and Asia; the great spread of tomatoes in the kitchens of most of the world has led over time to the development of numerous hybrids and cultivars; in fact there are white, yellow, pink, orange, purple and even red tomatoes. In addition to the many colors, there are tomatoes of many shapes: elongated, similar to small bottles of sauce, like the famous San Marzano; small like the Red Cherry; roundish and of large size, up to one kg per fruit, like the beafsteak, and then ribbed, heart-shaped, crushed.
In addition to many forms for fruits, there are many forms for cultivar plants; in general, creeping varieties are cultivated in family gardens, with a development similar to that of a creeper; to allow the plants to grow in less space and to prevent the fruits from touching the ground, ruining, in the family gardens the tomatoes are provided with stakes, to which the plants are secured, to make them grow erect. Among the vegetable tomatoes there are climbing species, with a continuous growth throughout the vegetative season, and certain species, which tend to grow to a defined height and then stop.
Plants grown in the open field, from the food industry, are generally dwarf varieties, or shrubs, which produce small low bushes; in this way it is easier to treat plants and fruits with the help of machinery.

Tomato cultivation

Tomato plants have always been a great success among vegetable plants, thanks to the fact that they are easy to cultivate; moreover, tomatoes are among the vegetables whose flavor is very different from that of unripe and later ripened fruits, compared to that of ripe cultured fruits, ready to be consumed. The tender and juicy pulp is easily subject to dents and crushing, which can lead to a rapid decay of the whole fruit; It is for this reason that those who sell tomatoes are forced to harvest them not yet fully ripe, in order to transport them without problems. So cultivating the tomatoes in the garden we will be able to fully enjoy the scent and flavor of these delicious vegetables.
They settle in a very sunny place, in the ground, spacing each plant at least 50 cm on each side; generally small well-developed plants are planted, securing them immediately to an upright tutor, traditionally made of bamboo.
Before planting the plants, work the soil thoroughly, enriching it with mature manure; then place the seedlings and water the soil thoroughly.
Periodically we proceed to secure the plant to the support, every time it lengthens; in this way we will avoid that it develops by crawling on the ground of the garden, taking up a lot of space. The flowers are star-shaped, and bloom in small clusters; as soon as the plant begins to bloom we can add a slow release granular fertilizer to the soil, or supply liquid fertilizer to the flowerbed every 10-12 days.
Fundamental periodic care when tomatoes are cultivated is the sfemminellatura: with the fingers we remove all the secondary buds that develop in the leaf axil; if not removed these shoots tend to grow a lot, without producing flowers, and removing most of the life force from the plant, which will tend to produce many leaves and small fruits.

Periodic treatment

In addition to camouflaging, which should be done every 2-3 days, it is essential to remember to water the soil where the tomatoes are grown: avoid keeping it always moist, but let's intervene by wetting it as soon as it is well dried. When watering the tomatoes it is important to wet the soil thoroughly, trying to wet a layer of soil at least 20-25 cm deep, but avoid wetting the foliage. Generally a groove is created with the hoe next to the solanum lycopersicum plants, spaced at least 25-35 cm: the water will be made to flow in this groove, so as to create a small basin, which will slowly penetrate the soil, moistening it in depth, but not to wet the foliage of the plants.
We avoid watering the plants often and sparingly; let's intervene instead with regularity, every 2-4 days, wetting the soil very well. We insist especially in the summer, when we are also going to intensify watering.
We will also periodically untangle the soil around the plants with the hoe, so as to remove the weeds that can steal our tomatoes.
Tomato plants often bloom over a few weeks; subsequently the fruits ripen to climb, therefore it will be necessary to collect the ripe fruits, avoiding to ruin the still green ones, which are often found in the same bunch of fruits already to be picked.

Diseases of the tomato

On the market there are numerous cultivars particularly resistant to the main fungal diseases of the tomato; if we don't have the desire or the time to check our plants often, we choose to cultivate the most resistant varieties, so as not to have to worry about diseases. In general, if well cultivated, tomatoes tend not to develop many diseases.
Also the Solanum lycopersicum is subject to the most common diseases from viruses or bacteria, such diseases cannot be cured, once the plant has been attacked: to avoid that they develop it is good to make sure that the plants are healthy, buying them in a trusted nursery, or buying certified seeds; the elimination of weeds around plants also removes many small insects, which can be vectors of even serious viruses, which lead to a poor harvest or to the desiccation of plants.
Most fungal diseases, such as downy mildew, powdery mildew, tracheoverticillosis, alternariosis, are avoided by the use of healthy plants, and by the correct cultivation treatments: we avoid to wet the foliage, especially in the cooler hours of the day; avoid watering the plants with very cold water, or in any case at a temperature very different from the environmental one.
Most fungal diseases remain overwintering in the ground from one year to the next; It is therefore very important to eliminate, at the end of the harvest, the plants that are now useless, preventing them from remaining on the ground; it is also fundamental to practice a correct rotation, even in the family vegetable garden: we avoid growing the same vegetable in the same area from year to year; every year we change the type of vegetables that we will grow in each flowerbed, also avoiding growing solanaceae in the same place. For example, we can grow tomatoes in a plot, the following year in the same plot we will put green beans, the next year of lettuce, and then we will still be able to place some tomatoes.
In this way we will avoid that the small fungi that afflict these plants remain in the soil from year to year, always finding new plants to attack.

Tomato - Solanum lycopersicum: Insects

Also some insects nestle among the leaves of the tomato; to avoid that the infestation becomes serious, capable of compromising the harvest, it is advisable to intervene as soon as we see the first specimens on our plants. We can use synthetic insecticide products, or natural products, it is only important to choose an effective product. Since these are plants that produce edible fruits, it is good to remember to avoid using insecticide products of any kind on the plants from which we are picking ripe fruit; we always check the period of deficiency on the packages, that is the period within which the product is active, after this time we can start to consume our tomatoes again without problem.
We also remember that some insecticides, whether synthetic or organic, are often broad-spectrum, that is they can also be harmful for useful insects: therefore we avoid using insecticides in the garden with the plants in bloom, to avoid inadvertently sprinkle also bees and other pollinating insects.
The insects most easily present on the tomato are: aphids, mites, potato beetles, bedbugs.
These insects tend to attack the foliage (Colorado beetle, mites and aphids) and the fruits (bug).
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