The Life of a Tomato

I read a recent post from a woman who had no clue how a tomato was formed on the vine.  I mentioned it to my husband and he thought that was rather odd.  We both did.  It never occurred to us that people didn’t know how a tomato formed.  Sometimes we have to stop and remember that not everyone grows their own food.

This got me thinking.  How many other people don’t know how a tomato grows?  I set out to document how the process works.

First, you plant a beautiful little plant that has a very distinct odor when you touch it.  Did you know that?  The stems of the plant also feel rather moist when you touch them.  They are also toxic.  Every part of a tomato is toxic except the fruit.  Odd huh?

Anyway, when the conditions are right (meaning it’s warm enough) the plant will flower.

The flower could be a single one (as shown in the above photo) or double, or triple.  I’ve had very sparse flowers and large frilly flowers.  It just depends on the plant.  In any case they are all the same shade of bright yellow.  The flower needs to be open during the day time to be pollinated.  They close up when the air temperature is cool so if you live somewhere that the days are colder you’ll have later or never setting fruit.  We were lucky to have a massive heat wave in July that caused my plants to put on massive amounts of fruit.

babies

That is one cluster of hundreds of cherry tomatoes I have.

Once the flower is pollinated the fruit will form behind the flower (actually inside).  The flower wilts and a little tomato is formed.

new-tomato

This was the smallest one I could find.  It’s about the size of a petite pea.

As the warm weather goes on the fruit gets larger and larger and once it reaches its mature size it will begin to color.  Typically the fruit colors from the bottom to the top.  Every so often you’ll get a strange variety that colors from the top down or the side over.  I have fruit doing all of those.  The Azoychka (yellow)  colors from either the side over or the whole thing at once.  All of my red varieties color from the bottom up and the orange Juan Flame colors from the top down.  The white Snow White Cherries color from the bottom up too.

tomato1

tomato2
I tend to pick my tomatoes a little on the green side.  Heirloom varieties ripen fast once they are brought inside and can quickly become over ripe (sometimes overnight).  I keep all of mine on a paper towel on the kitchen counter.  I lay them stem side down and never on top of each other.  However, right now I have about 10 pounds and not enough counter space.  The ripe ones are in a basket on the kitchen table and will soon become salsa.  The greenish ones are holding their place of honor on the counter.

At the end of the season, when the weather man threatens frost I run outside and pick all of the green tomatoes that are close to mature size.  I put them on sheet pans and put the pans all over the house.  They will ripen up.  It just might take a week or more.

So now you know how you go from a little flower to this.

basket-full

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