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Tomatoes the Ubiquitous Summer Vegetable

BeeJ Hansell

It’s not too late to plant tomatoes in Minnesota this summer. But, how do you choose from the many, many brands of tomatoes that are out there. Read this article for very useful information about choosing the right variety of tomato to grow in your garden.

Tomatoes the Ubiquitous Summer Vegetable

It’s June, so likely you have already chosen and planted garden tomatoes. If you’re still debating, you’re at the right place. Let’s review of one of the most popular vegetables raised in home gardens.

The tomato, solanum lycopersicum, Lycopersicon lycopersicum is a member of the nightshade family of plants; most of the family are poisonous. Thank goodness for this tasty, safe to consume relative. World-wide there are 10,000 varieties of these delicious orbs. A small percentage perform very well in Minnesota. Our growing season is challenging given the potential for late frosts, and the wide range of temperatures (hot to hotter) over a short period.

Tomatoes are almost any color of the rainbow. Sizes range from cherry, about the size of a thumb tip; to beefsteak, regularly at seven inches in diameter with some weighing nearly a pound or more. So many tomatoes, so little time! To help with choosing the optimal for your garden take a look at the results of 2022 tomato seeds trial of six varieties: Brandywine Marriage Tomatoes

Below are some general considerations when choosing varietals.

To Heirloom or not to Heirloom 

An Heirloom tomato carries the best characteristics of tomatoes and have been grown for decades. They have been grown without crossbreeding for at least 40-50 years or more. When you choose heirloom varieties you consistently get what you expect. Heirlooms are reportedly easy for the beginner gardener to grow. They are also often considered to be more flavorful.

Hybrid, “normal” tomatoes are carefully bred (human intervention) to have particular characteristics. For example, hybrids have larger yields. They also may be bred to be more resistant to pests and disease.

Determinate versus Indeterminate

Determinate tomatoes grow to a certain point, then stop. They are bushy, compact, of shorter stature, and generally 2-4 feet tall. They still require some support, like tomato cages. They produce all of their tomatoes at once. The fruits develop on the ends of the branches. Determinate tomatoes are usually labeled as “bush,” “patio,” or “container” - perfect for smaller spaces. There are also dwarf types. Since all the tomatoes on the plant mature simultaneously, they tend to have a shorter growing season. In order to have tomatoes throughout the summer, one must either stagger start dates, or consider planting additional indeterminate tomatoes.

Indeterminate plants grow and grow. They are the vine tomatoes most recognized and envisioned when people talk about growing tomatoes. They can grow to lengths of 10-12 feet, therefore, require vertical supports, and lots of them. Indeterminate tomatoes produce fruit throughout the season. The fruit grows all along the stems, ripening at different times. This results in a longer growing season and and greater yield than determinate varieties.

Regardless of your choices, enjoy the sun-happy tomatoes until the Minnesota frost sweeps them away. 

Here are two recipes that are often overlooked. First, more than a movie, welcome: Fried Green Tomatoes!  

Second, the “Southern Tomato Sandwich.”

NOTE, Duke’s Mayo is what makes it perfect. 

  • 2 (½-inch-thick) slices beefsteak tomato

  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt or ⅛ tsp. table salt

  • ¼ tsp. freshly, coarsely ground black pepper

  • 2 slices soft, white sandwich bread

  • 3 Tbsp. mayonnaise, or more!!

  1. Arrange tomato slices on a paper towel, sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper. Let stand until tops of slices are beaded up with juices, 3 to 5 minutes.

  2. Spread one side of each bread slice with 1½ tablespoons mayonnaise. Arrange tomato slices on mayo side of one bread slice: top with other bread slice, mayo slice down. Enjoy the messy, juicy goodness immediately!!

I leave you with this final thought in the form of Haiku:

Beautiful and firm

Sweet summer fruit soaks up sun

Delicious to eat

Photo Credit: (1,2)

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