Aug 282012

by Avis Licht

A ripe Brandywine tomato

There is something very interesting about the green shoulder on this tomato.

It’s often hard to find a ripe, delicious tomato in the store. For that reason, tomatoes are one of the most popular plants to grow in the home vegetable garden. Tomatoes for large scale agriculture have been bred to have tough skins and are picked unripe in order to ship them in large containers without getting squished.  These tomatoes have nothing in common with an old fashioned, well grown tomato, picked ripe.

This blog is not about how to grow a tomato, of which there are many varieties and can be grown in many locales. That’s for another day. What I will talk about  is the meaning of the surprise markings on many heirloom tomatoes.

We usually think about ripe tomatoes in terms of red.  Green means not ripe.  WRONG! The green shoulder on a tomato  influences the amount of sugar in the ripe fruit. If green shoulders don’t sound familiar, that’s because most commercial tomatoes don’t have them anymore. The dark green parts have more chloroplasts, which turn sunlight into sugars. Scientists think that increases the amount of sugar in the tomato by about twenty percent. You can read more about it in this article from UC Davis Food and Science Department.

Many colors and kinds of tomatoes

Tomatoes come in many colors and shapes. They have different flavors as well. It’s worth growing your own.


Watch your tomatoes as they grow, and when they start turning color, whatever color they’re supposed to be, pick them while they’re still a little firm.  If possible hold back on the irrigation before harvesting.  It makes them sweeter.


Pick your tomato carefully

There is a little section near the top of the tomato. Pick it at that section and leave the cap on. The tomato will keep better and you won’t be as likely to rip off the whole branch.


There’s so much to learn about growing the healthiest and best tasting fruit and vegetables, but the most important part is to just start! Let me know what your favorite tomato varieties are.

Apr 242012
Delicious homegrown tomatoes
Delicious homegrown tomatoes

We love a salad of different kinds of tomatoes

by Avis Licht – A fresh picked, ripe, delicious tomato is one of the best foods in the garden. They are soooo much better than store bought and so easy to grow, that they are one of the most widely grown vegetables. Here are a few tips that will help insure you get the best, tastiest and healthiest tomatoes.

1. Pick a sunny site. You can’t make up for lack of sun.  Look for at least 7 hours of sun per day.

2. Tomatoes prefer well drained, neutral  to slightly acid soil.  Add lime to acid soil and sulfur to alkaline soil. Make sure your soil drains well. They don’t like sitting in water.

3. Pick several varieties that are suitable to your climate.  For instance, if you live near the coast and fog, it’s better to grow cherry tomatoes that don’t need a long, hot season.  The larger the tomato, the longer the season. There are plants known as determinate and indeterminate.  Determinate types are bushier, need little or no staking and tend to bear all their crop at once.  They do well in pots or containers. Indeterminate grow taller and need staking.  They bear their crop over a longer period of time.  If you plant some of each you will have tomatoes over a longer period. Check out this site for varieties of heirloom tomatoes.

Young tomatoes

Stake your tomatoes early and keep them off the ground to reduce rot and pests

4. Set out your plants after all danger of frost has passed.  The biggest mistake people make is putting out their tomatoes too early, during a warm period in early spring. They get whacked by a late frost, or just cold weather.  Tomatoes like warm soil.  Put the plants in and after the weather warms up a little, then mulch them.

5. Give tomatoes well aged manure or compost.  They don’t need a lot of nitrogen, but do need the micronutrients in the compost for good flavor.

6. HERE’S AN IMPORTANT TIP: Give your tomatoes regular water.  If the roots dry out, they don’t take up the calcium in the soil, which results in cracked fruits and end rot.  However: when the plants are getting ripe, you can cut back on the amount of water. Mealy, watery tomatoes are usually a result of OVER WATERING!

moisture meter

Best tool ever. This will save you time, water and money. Click on the picture to buy it!

I use this simple, inexpensive gauge to let me know how moist the soil is.  You can’t tell by looking at the surface if you need to water.  The top of the soil can be dry and the soil at a few inches below may be wet.  Check first before you water. Believe me, this is one of my most used tools.


7. When you finally get your delicious tomatoes – DON’T put them in the refrigerator.  It ruins their flavor. Keep them out on the counter out of the sun. Hardly anyone knows this. But you know it now.

Cherry tomato

These cherry tomatoes start bearing early, give a lot and last until the first frost.


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