Tomato, is today the most popular garden vegetable in America. For many years, however, tomatoes (then called "love apples") were considered poisonous and were grown solely for their ornamental value. Tomatoes are usually easy to grow and a few plants provide an adequate harvest for most families. The quality of fruit picked in the garden when fully ripe far surpasses anything available on the market, even in season. The tomato plant is a tender, warm-season perennial that is grown as an annual in summer gardens all over the continental United States. Spring and fall freezes limit the outdoor growing season.
Hundreds of varieties of tomatoes are now available for the home gardener. They range widely in size, shape, color, plant type, disease resistance and season of maturity. Catalogs, garden centers and greenhouses offer a large selection of tomato varieties and choosing the best one or two varieties can be extremely difficult. Evaluate your needs, then choose the varieties best suited to your intended use and method of culture.
Tomato plants fall into one of two types that affect ultimate plant height and cultural requirements. Tomatoes are determinate if they eventually form a flower cluster at the terminal growing point, causing the plant to stop growing in height. Plants that never set terminal flower clusters, but only lateral ones and continue indefinitely to grow taller are called indeterminate. Older varieties are almost all indeterminate. These can be counted upon to produce abundant foliage and to ripen flavorful fruit. They may, however be extremely late in maturing. The first determinate varieties developed had real problems with inadequate foliage cover and taste, but they ripened very early. Newer determinates produce better foliage, may grow taller and ripen fruit of similar quality to modern indeterminate varieties. They still tend to ripen their fruit over a shorter period of time, so successive plantings may be desirable with determinates to keep the harvest coming through the entire season. Determinate vines are easier to control and support during the growing season. Some of the extreme dwarf types are determinate as well as dwarf, producing some truly tiny mature plants.
Days to harvest are generally determined from the time transplants are planted in the garden.
Guide to Abbreviations
First-Early Red (60 or fewer days to harvest)
These varieties have more compact plant growth than the main-season varieties and sunburning of the fruit is a problem in hot weather. The main crop varieties are generally far superior for summer long harvest. First early varieties are better suited for northern areas, where the growing seasons are shorter and the summers cooler. They have small to medium-sized red fruit and are usually not suitable for pruning.
Sub Arctic Plenty (45 days to harvest; 3 to 4 ounces; fruit concentrated in center clusters; determinate)
Early Cascade (55 days; 4 ounces; trailing plant, large fruit clusters; indeterminate; resistant to VF)
Early Girl (54 days; 5 ounces; earliest full size; indeterminate; resistant to V)
Quick Pick (60 days; 4 ounces; round, smooth, heavy yield; indeterminate; resistant to VFNTA)
Medium-Early Red (60 to 69 days)
These varieties are intermediate between the extreme earliness of the first earliest and the sounder plant type and production characteristics of the main crop types. Fruit size is improved, as is quality. The real tomato harvest season begins with the medium early varieties.
Champion (65 days to harvest; 10 ounces; solid, smooth, large; indeterminate; resistant to VFNT)
Mountain Spring (65 days; 9 ounces; globe, very smooth; determinate; resistant to VF)
Most of the main crop varieties bear medium sized to large fruit, have adequate foliage cover, and are relatively free from fruit cracking and other deformities. They are suitable for growing on mulch, in wire cages or on trellises. Many of them can be pruned and trained to stakes. As the name implies, they should make up the bulk of the main crop harvest because they have superior yield, better staying power in the garden and fruit of high quality.
Celebrity (70 days to harvest; 10 ounces; large, productive; determinate; resistant to VFFNT)
Mountain Delight (70 days; 10 ounces; no green shoulders; determinate; resistant to VF)
Fantastic (70 days; 9 ounces; deep globe, high yield; indeterminate)
Better Boy (72 days; 12 ounces; easy-to-find plants; indeterminate; resistant to VFN)
Mountain Pride (74 days; 10 ounces; smooth, flat globe; determinate; resistant to VF)
Floramerica (75 days; 12 ounces; All America Selection winner, bright red; determinate; resistant to VF)
Burpee's Big Girl (78 days; 16 ounces; crack-resistant, attractive fruit; indeterminate; resistant to VF)
Supersonic (79 days; 12 ounces; solid, crack resistant; indeterminate; resistant to VF)
These varieties are relatively late maturing. The fruits may be extremely large but also can be misshapen, with rough scar tissue ("cat-facing") on the blossom end. When this scar tissue must be cut away, some of the advantage of extra-large size is lost. Large size, though, is almost never about total yield, but more often about the novelty of huge size.
Some of the newer hybrid large types like Supersteakand Beefmasterhave fruit with much more consistent shape.
Delicious (OP) (77 days to harvest; over 1 lb.; world record (7 lb. 12 oz) with this variety; indeterminate)
Supersteak (80 days; 1 to 2 lb.; extra meaty; indeterminate; resistant to VFN)
Beefmaster (81 days; 1 to 2 lb.; large Beefsteak type; indeterminate; reistant to VFN)
Yellow or Orange
Contrary to popular belief, yellow and orange fruited varieties are not significantly lower in acid content than red tomatoes, and they are equally safe to can or process. They "taste" sweeter than red varieties, because they have a higher sugar content. Current varieties in this classification have much earlier maturity and better plant growth characteristics than older yellows and oranges, which tended to be big, sprawling and late maturing.
Mountain Gold (OP) (70 days to harvest; 8 ounces; deep tangerine orange; determinate; resistant to VF)
Lemon Boy (72 days; 7 ounces; lemon yellow, mild flavor, productive; indeterminate; resistant to VFN)
Jubilee (OP) (72 days; 8 ounces; deep orange-yellow; indeterminate)
Golden Boy (80 days; 8 ounces; deep golden fruit, few seeds; indeterminate)
These varieties always have maintained a loyal following in certain regions of the country. Pinks traditionally have been similar to yellows with regard to plant type and maturity. Recent breeding work has developed disease-resistant plants with very attractive fruit. For the highest eating quality, some of the older types may still be at the top for flavor.
Pink Girl (76 days to harvest; 7 ounces; smooth, crack resistant; indeterminate; resistant to VF)
Brandywine (OP) (80 days; 12 ounces; large, rough, heirloom; juicy, great taste; indeterminate)
Other Colors and Types
Although odd colors and types have been around for a long time, they have experienced a resurgence of popularity, fueled in part by the upscale salad bar. As these outlets have competed to offer the newest and brightest assortment of produce, some almost-forgotten tomatoes have been "rediscovered."
White Wonder (OP) (85 days to harvest; 8 ounces; creamy white flesh and skin; indeterminate)
Evergreen (OP) (85 days; 8 ounces; green skin tinged with yellow; flesh bright green at maturity; indeterminate)
Long Keeper (OP) (78 days; 6 ounces; orange skin, orange-red flesh; solid, keeps for weeks; indeterminate)
Yellow Stuffer (OP) (80 days; 4 ounces; lobed, lemon yellow, shaped like pepper; semi-hollow, easy to stuff; indeterminate)
Red Paste Types
Paste tomatoes are usually used for making catsup, paste and sauces and for canning whole. Their solid, meaty, low-moisture flesh makes processing these products less complicated. Recently, some of them are becoming trendy and popular for eating fresh. These are usually short plant types that tend to set up a large load of fruit in a short time and then ripen a large proportion of this fruit at once. With tomatoes used fresh, it is usually seen as an advantage to have fruit ripening over an extended season on individual plants, but ripening most of the crop in a short period has been a bonus for paste tomatoes because processing activities are best done in fairly large lots.
Veeroma (OP) (72 days to harvest; 2 to 3 ounces; early Roma type, deep square shape; det; resistant to VF)
Roma (OP) (75 days; 2 ounces; standard red plum, tolerant to early blight; determinate; resistant to VF)
San Marzano (OP) (80 days; 3 ounces; deep red, crack resistant, meaty and dry; determinate)
Viva Italia (80 days; 3 ounces; meaty, sweet; good fresh; determinate; resistant to VFN)
These varieties are generally vigorous growing and productive. They vary in size from 1 to 1-1/2 inches in diameter and are usually suitable for pruning. Production per plant is very high, to the point that picking may become tedious. Whole clusters may sometimes be picked at one time to speed the harvest. Splitting seems to be more of a problem with cherries, though newer hybrids have attempted to lessen the problem. These types are usually described as especially sweet and tasty.
Super Sweet 100 (70 days to harvest; 1 inch; red, cherry-sized fruit in large clusters; indeterminate; resistant to VF)
Sweet Million (65 days; 1 inch; red, sweet, crack resistant; large clusters; indeterminate; resistant to FNT)
Yellow Pear (OP) (70 days; 1 inch; clusters of yellow, pear-shaped fruit; indeterminate)
Large Red Cherry (OP) (70 days; 1-1/2 inch; solid, deep red, tasty fruit; indeterminate)
Mountain Belle (65 days; 1 1/4 inch; red, crack resistant, ripens uniformly and holds on the vine; determinate; resistant to VF)
These tomatoes are popular for use in containers, hanging baskets and garden or patio locations where space is limited. Because more people now live where traditional vegetable gardening is not possible, container and patio gardens have become more popular. Their ornamental value is an added benefit and their fruit quality has recently been improved as well. They have fruit in red and some other colors and are not suitable for pruning (except the new Husky hybrids).
Tiny Tim (45 days to harvest; 1 inch; very dwarf, red cherry fruit; determinate)
Cherry Gold (45 days; 1 inch; golden version of Tiny Tim; determinate)
Red Robin (55 days; 1 inch; super-dwarf plant, 6 inches tall; mild taste; determinate)
Yellow Canary (55 days; 1 inch; similar to Red Robin, but yellow fruit; determinate)
Pixie Hybrid II (52 days; 2 ounces; compact dwarf plants; determinate)
Patio Hybrid (65 days; 3 ounces; strong dwarf plants, relatively large fruit, ideal container plant; determinate)
Small Fry (72 days; 1 inch; red, good in hanging baskets; determinate)
Husky Red Hybrid (68 days; 6 ounces; dwarf plant, large fruit; extended harvest; indeterminate; resistant to VF)
Husky Gold Hybrid (70 days; 6 ounces; AAS winner; same plant types as Red and Pink; gold fruit; indeterminate; resistant to VF)
Husky Pink Hybrid (72 days; 6 ounces; smooth pink fruit on same husky-type plant; indeterminate; resistant to VF)
Gardeners interested in growing greenhouse tomatoes should know that specific varieties have been developed for this environment. Some catalogs now routinely list these types, which should be used for the most satisfactory results. Consult catalogs for varieties available.
A particularly large number of heirloom tomato varieties are available today, mainly because tomatoes normally do not cross-pollinate. Seed saved from fruits of non-hybrid varieties produce plants fairly identical to the parent plant. Many of the odder colors and types that have resurfaced lately have their origins in these older, self-saved varieties. The plant type is usually large, sprawling and late compared to current commercial varieties. Disease resistance may also be suspect. If, however, the gardener wants to try a few truly weird or tasty types, these usually mature some fruits almost anywhere except in the shortest-season areas. Specialty seed houses and exchanges are a source of the widest variety of heirloom tomatoes imaginable.
When to Plant
Buying transplants or starting seeds indoor early, gets tomatoes off to the best start in the garden when warm weather finally arrives and it saves several weeks in growing time. Some gardeners transplant their tomatoes soon after the soil is prepared for spring gardening, when there is a high risk of damage from freezing. Be prepared to cover early set plants overnight to protect them from frost. For best results with very early plantings, consider black plastic mulch and floating row covers for heat accumulation and frost protection. For best results with minimal risk, plant when the soil is warm, soon after the frost-free date for your area.
For fall harvest and early winter storage of tomatoes, late plantings may be made from late spring until mid-summer, depending on the length of the growing season. These plantings have the advantage of increased vigor and freedom from early diseases, and they often produce better quality tomatoes than later pickings from early spring plantings. Time late plantings for maximal yield before killing freezes in your area (up to 100 days from transplanting for most varieties).
Spacing & Depth
The space required depends upon the growth pattern of the variety and method of culture. Space dwarf plants 12 inches apart in the row, staked plants 15 to 24 inches apart and trellised or ground bed plants 24 to 36 inches apart. Some particularly vigorous indeterminate varieties may need 4 feet between plants and 5 to 6 feet between rows to allow comfortable harvest room.
Apply starter fertilizer when transplanting. Hoe or cultivate shallowly to keep down weeds without damaging roots. Mulching is recommended, especially for gardeners who wish to maintain their plants for full season harvest. Black plastic or organic materials are suitable for mulching. Delay application of organic materials until after the soil has warmed completely in early summer so that growth is not retarded by cool soil temperatures early in the season.
Water the plants thoroughly and regularly during prolonged dry periods. Plants confined in containers may need daily or even more frequent watering. Side-dress nitrogen fertilizer (ammonium nitrate) at the rate of one pound per 100 feet of row (equivalent to 1 tablespoon per plant) after the first tomatoes have grown to the size of golf balls. (If ammonium nitrate is not available, use 3 pounds of 10-10-10 fertilizer.) Make two more applications 3 and 6 weeks later. If the weather is dry following these applications, water the plants thoroughly. Do not get fertilizer on the leaves.
Many gardeners train their tomato plants to stakes, trellises or cages with great success. Not all varieties, however, are equally suitable for staking and pruning.
Tomato cages may be made from concrete-reinforcing wire, woven-wire stock fencing or various wooden designs. Choose wire or wooden designs that have holes large enough to allow fruit to be picked and removed without bruising. The short, small, narrow type often sold at garden centers is all but useless for anything but the smallest of the dwarf types. Most modern determinate tomatoes easily grow 3 to 4 feet tall and indeterminates continue to get taller until frozen in the fall, easily reaching at least 6 feet in height. Use cages that match in height the variety to be caged and firmly anchor them to the ground with stakes or steel posts to keep the fruit-laden plants from uprooting themselves in late summer windstorms.
Trellis-weave systems have recently been developed for commercial operations and can work just as well in a garden planting. Tall stakes are securely driven into the tomato row about every two or three plants in the row. Make sure the stakes are tall enough to accommodate the growth of your tomato varieties and make sure they are driven very securely into the ground to prevent wind damage. (The woven rows of tomatoes can catch much wind.) As the tomatoes grow upward, strings are attached to the end posts and woven back and forth between the supports, holding the tops of the plants up and off the ground. This operation is repeated about as often as the tomatoes grow another 6 inches, until the plants reach maturity. The fruit is held off the ground as with staked or caged plants; but the foliage cover is better than with staked plants, and the fruit is more accessible than with cages.
Tomatoes should be firm and fully colored. They are of highest quality when they ripen on healthy vines and daily summer temperatures average about 75°F. When temperatures are high (air temperature of 90°F or more), the softening process is accelerated and color development is retarded, reducing quality. For this reason, during hot summer weather, pick your tomatoes every day or two, harvest the fruits when color has started to develop and ripen them further indoors (at 70 to 75°F). On the day before a killing freeze is expected, harvest all green mature fruit that is desired for later use in the fall. Wrap the tomatoes individually in paper and store at 60 to 65°F. They continue to ripen slowly over the next several weeks. Whole plants may be uprooted and hung in sheltered locations, where fruit continues to ripen.
Tomato hornworms are large (2 to 3 inch long when fully grown), green caterpillars with white stripes on the body. A horn protrudes from the top rear end of the worm. Tomato hornworms feed on the leaves and fruit. Several worms on one plant can quickly defoliate it and ruin developing fruit. Because their green coloring so closely resembles tomato foliage and stems, they are difficult to see. Handpick in cooler parts of the day or use suggested biological insecticides. If you see hornworms with small, white cocoons protruding, leave them alone. These structures are the pupae of parasitic insects that help control the hornworm population and the individual wearing them is already doomed.
Verticillium and fusarium wilts are soilborne diseases that cause yellowing of the leaves, wilting and premature death of plants. These diseases persist in gardens where susceptible plants are grown. Once they build up, the only practical control is the use of resistant (VF) varieties.
Early blight is characterized by dead brown spots that usually start on the lower leaves and spread up the plant. Upon close inspection, you can see concentric rings within the spots. Although early blight is most severe on the leaves, it sometimes occurs on the stems and can cause severe defoliation. Certain varieties (Roma and Supersonic) are more tolerant of early blight than others.
Septoria leafspot is characterized by numerous small black spots on the leaves. The centers of these spots later turn white and tiny black dots appear in the white centers. The disease starts on the bottom leaves and may become severe in wet weather.
Blossom-end rot is a dry, leathery brown rot of the blossom end of the fruit that is common in some seasons on tomatoes. It is caused by the combination of a localized calcium deficiency in the developing fruit and wide fluctuations of soil moisture. The problem is especially bad in hot weather. Soil applications of calcium seldom help, though foliar calcium sprays may minimize the occurrence of the problem. Make sure the formulation is designed for foliar application or severe damage could result. Pruning causes stress to the plants that may increase the incidence of blossom-end rot. Some tomato varieties are much more susceptible to this condition than others. Mulching and uniform watering help to prevent blossom-end rot. Once the blackened ends appear, affected fruits cannot be saved. They are best removed and destroyed so that healthy fruit setting later can develop more quickly.
Poor color and sunscald occur when high temperatures retard the development of full red color in tomatoes exposed directly to the hot sun. Sunscald occurs as a large, whitish area on the fruit during hot, dry weather. It becomes a problem when foliage has been lost through other diseases such as early blight or on early varieties that normally have poor foliage cover as the fruit ripens.
Questions & Answers
Q. What causes the lower leaves of my tomato plants to roll up?
A. Leaf roll (curling of the leaflets) is a physiological condition that occurs most commonly when plants are trained and pruned. It should not affect fruiting or quality.
Q. What causes the flowers to drop off my tomato plants?
A. During unfavorable weather (night temperatures lower than 55°F, or day temperatures above 95°F with drying hot winds), tomatoes do not set and flowers drop. The problem usually disappears as the weather improves.
Q. What can I do to prevent my tomatoes from cracking?
A. Cracking varies with the variety. Many of the newer varieties are resistant to cracking. Severe pruning increases cracking. Keep soil moisture uniform as the tomatoes develop and plant resistant varieties to minimize this problem.
Q. What causes small, irregular, cloudy white spots just under the skin of my tomatoes.
A. These spots on green or ripe fruits are caused by the feeding of stink bugs.
Q. What causes the young leaves of my plants to become pointed and irregular in shape? I notice some twisting of the leaves and stems after spraying the plants for the first time.
A. Judging from the description, it seems likely that your tomato plants have been injured by 2,4-D or a similar growth regulator weed killer. Never use the same sprayer in your vegetable garden that you use for weed control in your lawn. Drift from herbicides originating 1/2 mile or more away also can injure your tomato plants. For this reason, use extreme caution when applying lawn care chemicals near vegetable or fruit plantings.
Q. What is a tree tomato?
A. The treelike plant sold as a "tree tomato," is a different species from garden tomatoes. It is a woody tree that grows 8 feet or taller and bears after 2 years. The tree tomato is a tropical plant and does not overwinter outside anywhere the temperature drops below freezing. The fruits are small (1 to 2 inches in diameter) and are used primarily in stews or preserves rather than in salads. Some of the common, vigorous, indeterminate garden tomato varieties that are suitable for training and pruning (such as Ponderosa) are also sold as climbing or "tree tomatoes" by some seed stores.
Q. What is a "potomato?
A. Although both potato and tomato plants can be integrated, the "potomato" (sometimes called "topato") commonly advertised is simply a tomato seed inserted into a potato tuber and planted together, producing both a tomato plant and a potato plant in the same hill. The results are not likely to be particularly successful.
Q. My grandpa grew a heart shaped, dark pink tomato that was thick and meaty, yet juicy with great flavor. Grandpa's gone and I can't find a source for the seed. What can I do?
A. Fortunately, there are a number of seed exchanges like Seed Savers Exchange, RR#3, Box 239, Decorah, IA 52101, which have been finding and rescuing old varieties. More old and heirloom varieties are also available from conventional seed sources these days. Perhaps, by doing some homework and contacting one or several of these sources, you can find a variety that is exactly (or very nearly) like those you remember from your grandfather's garden. As a guess, the variety sounds like one called Oxheart, which used to be fairly common and has recently become rare.
Selection & Storage
Tomatoes are a favorite among small plot gardeners and nothing tastes better than one that is truly vine ripened. Although tomatoes are available year round, vine-ripened tomatoes are only available during the growing season.
Dozens of varieties of tomatoes are available in seed catalogs and as transplants. They come in a wide range of sizes, colors and shapes. A single tomato plant will grow well in a large flowerpot or bucket. The point is, if you do not plant anything else, plant a tomato and eat fresh tomatoes often. Tomatoes generally fall into three categories, slicing round tomatoes, plum tomatoes, and small cherry tomatoes. Variety selection should be suited to how you will use them.
Slicing tomatoes are large round varieties, which hold more juice and seeds. They are perfect for eating raw in a wide variety of ways. Plum tomatoes are meaty, eggplant-shaped, and may be red or yellow. They are excellent for sauce making, canning, and pizzas. Small cherry-type tomatoes are generally served whole, although they can be cut in half and sautéed in any dish. They contain a great deal of seeds and juice.
Fresh ripe tomatoes should not be stored in the refrigerator. Unfortunately, refrigeration renders them tasteless and turns the flesh to mealy mush. Flavor and texture begin to deteriorate when the temperature drops below 54°F. Temperatures above 80°F cause tomatoes to spoil quickly. Store tomatoes at room temperature for 2 to 3 days, away from direct sunlight until ready to use (sunlight hastens ripening).
Refrigeration also slows ripening of tomatoes. Refrigerate only extra-ripe tomatoes you want to keep from ripening any further. To reverse some of the damage, bring chilled tomatoes to room temperature before serving raw or simply add to cooked preparations.
To ripen tomatoes, place them in a paper bag, stem end up. Punch several holes all around the bag and fold the top over. The bag will help to keep some of the natural ethylene gas in place, which aids in the ripening process. Depending on how under ripe they are, tomatoes may take one to five days to ripen. Check progress daily.
Nutritional Value & Health Benefits
Nutritionists have always known tomatoes were good for you, now there is research-based information as to why. Tomatoes are packed with vitamin C, potassium, fiber and vitamin A in the form of health promoting beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A.
Tomatoes are also a source of lycopene, which is the subject of current promising research on the role of plant chemicals that promote health. Research suggests that lycopene may play a role in the fight against cancer, especially prostate cancer. Like beta-carotene, lycopene is a carotenoid, responsible for the bright red color of the tomato, watermelon, and grapefruit. Although lycopene is available in all ripe tomatoes, a greater supply is more useful to the body in cooked tomatoes.
Nutrition Facts (Serving size, one cup chopped raw)
Protein 1.1 grams
Carbohydrates 5.3 grams
Dietary Fiber 1 gram
Potassium 254 mg
Vitamin C 22 mg
Vitamin A 1,133 IU
Preparation & Serving
Tomatoes are, of course, delicious raw, sautéed, grilled, stewed, and added to many preparations. Use a serrated knife or very sharp non-serrated knife to slice or chop tomatoes or prick the skin to get a slice going. Cut tomatoes lengthwise from stem to blossom end to retain more juice in each slice.
To peel tomatoes, blanch by dropping them into boiling water for about 30 seconds, or longer for firm tomatoes, then plunge into a bowl of ice water until cool enough to handle. Cut an X on the stem end and use a paring knife to pull skin away. Skin will pull away easily if the tomatoes have been blanched long enough.
To seed tomatoes, cut the tomato in half horizontally. Holding a half in the palm of your hand, squeeze out the jelly-like juice and seeds over a strainer and scoop out remaining seeds with your fingertip. Do not throw away the juice, sieve it and use it in another recipe or drink it.
Tomatoes are excellent for canning, freezing, and drying. With a forced-air dehydrator, you can make your own sun dried tomatoes. Use plum-type Romas, with their thick, meaty flesh and low percentage of water for best results. Once they are dried, tomatoes should be packed in airtight containers. They should not be packed in oil for longer than one or two days, and they should be stored in the refrigerator. Commercially prepared sun-dried tomatoes in oil have been treated to prevent bacteria growth.
To Freeze Tomatoes
Frozen tomatoes keep their fabulous fresh flavor, but they become mushy in texture and are best used in cooked soups, sauces or stews. The skin will toughen in the freezer, but it is much easier to remove upon thawing. Or run frozen tomatoes under cold water and the skins will curl up and can easily be pulled right off.
1. Wash whole tomatoes, remove the stems and cut out the core.
2. Leave the tomatoes whole or quarter them and pack them into freezer bags, leaving about an inch headspace.
To Can Tomatoes
Tomatoes are an intermediate acid food. To make them acid enough for canning in a water bath canner or pressure canner, lemon juice (2 tablespoons/quart), vinegar (4 tablespoons/ quart) or citric acid (1/2 teaspoon/quart) must be added. Use half the amount of acid for pint-size jars.
Acid can be added directly to the jars before filling with the tomatoes. Vinegar tends to change the flavor; lemon juice actually produces the best results. Fresh or bottled lemons can be used. If the additional acid makes the produce taste too acidic for you, add a pinch of sugar to each jar to offset the taste.
Green tomatoes are more acid than ripened tomatoes and can be canned safely using any of the following directions. Select only disease-free, preferably vine-ripened, firm fruit for canning. Two and a half to three and a half pounds of fresh tomatoes will yield one quart of canned tomatoes.
Tomatoes can be raw or hot-packed. All tomato products must be processed in a water bath canner. Processing times vary depending on the form (whole, crushed, or juiced) of the tomatoes being canned and the jar size (pints or quarts) and whether a hot-pack or raw-pack is used.
Tomatoes Crushed, Hot Pack Method
1 pound ripe tomatoes
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt, optional
1. Wash jars by hand or in dishwasher. Rinse well and prepare 2-piece canning lids according to manufacturers directions.
2. Wash tomatoes under running water, and remove skins according to instructions above (see Preparing and Serving Tomatoes). Trim off any bruised or discolored portions and quarter.
3. Heat about one pound of the quarters quickly in a large pot, crushing them with a wooden mallet or spoon as they are added to the pot. This will draw off some juice. Continue heating the tomatoes, stirring to prevent burning. Once the tomatoes are boiling, gradually add remaining quarters, stirring constantly. These remaining tomatoes do not need to be crushed. They will soften with heating and stirring. Boil gently for 5 minutes.
4. Add fresh or bottled lemon juice, citric acid or vinegar to each jar. Follow ratio outlined above. Add teaspoon salt to each pint or 1 teaspoon to each quart jar, if desired.
5. Fill jars immediately with hot tomatoes, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles with a plastic utensil or rubber spatula. Wipe jar rims with a damp cloth. Adjust lids and process.
Process in Boiling Water Bath
Pints . . . . . . . . 35 minutes
Quarts . . . . . . . 45 minutes
Process in a Dial Gauge Pressure Canner at 11 pounds pressure or in a Weighted Gauge Pressure Canner at 10 pounds pressure:
Pints or Quarts . . . . . 15 minutes
To safely can other tomato products, follow USDA Canning Guidelines.
Fresh Garden Salsa
This coarse textured salsa is more of a relish or Pico de Gallo. The ingredients can be finely diced or use a medium for chunky salsa. Serve with traditional tortilla chips or use as a side dish with grilled meat, squash cakes (see Summer Squash) or anywhere you want a bright, tart, savory accompaniment.
2 large ripe, red slicing tomatoes, cored and chopped
1 small white onion, chopped
1 green onion, top included, chopped
1 to 3 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, minced
Juice of lime
1. Using a serrated knife, chop tomatoes. If using plum tomatoes, add 2 tablespoons water.
2. In a medium bowl, toss together the tomatoes, onions, peppers, and cilantro. Squeeze lime juice over the mixture and sprinkle on the salt. Allow to rest 30 minutes before serving to allow salt to draw juice from the tomatoes. Stir again just before serving. Makes about 2 cups.
Fried Green Tomatoes
Fried green tomatoes are a southern tradition made famous by the movie of the same name. They are so popular in the south that gardeners plant extra slicing tomatoes to be harvested green for this recipe.
4 green tomatoes, cut in 1/4-inch slices
1 cup flour
1 egg beaten with cup skim milk
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon each salt and black pepper
Canola oil for frying
1. Assemble ingredients. Spread flour on a sheet of waxed paper or on a plate. Put the egg wash in a shallow dish.
2. Spread the cornmeal on a sheet of waxed paper or plate, add salt and pepper, and mix well.
3. Dredge the tomato slices in flour and shake off the excess.
4. Dip each slice in the egg wash and drain off excess, and then coat with the cornmeal, shaking off excess gently. Place on a tray and set aside.
5. Heat the oil in a large heavy (preferably cast iron) skillet over a medium flame. When hot, add the tomato slices. Do not overcrowd the skillet. Cook several minutes, until golden, then turn. Drain on paper towels and serve while still hot. Makes 5 servings.
Grilled Tomato Kebabs
Small tomatoes such as cherry, current or pear tomatoes are best eaten raw or briefly cooked. They are perfect for skewering and grilling because they do not fall apart, unless overcooked. If you are using wooden skewers, soak them for 30 minutes in cold water before using.
36 small tomatoes, such as Cherry, Ping Pong, or Yellow Pear
1 tablespoon olive oil
teaspoon each, salt and black pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
Six wooden or metal skewers
1. Wash and drain tomatoes. Using a paper towel, dry each or spread on towels and allow to air dry so the oil will stick to the skins
2. Place the dry tomatoes in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, and season with oregano and pepper. Toss to coat tomatoes.
3. Thread 6 tomatoes, spaced at least an inch apart, on each of the 6 skewers.
4. Brush hot grill grate with oil to prevent sticking. Arrange skewers on grate. Grill 2 to 4 minutes. Turn and grill the other side for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove skewers and sprinkle with salt, if desired. Makes 6 servings.