Tomatoes are ruby red gems of fruit, as rich in nutrients as they are in vibrancy and sweetness. When eaten raw, they are packed with vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, potassium, folate and vitamin K, which have been shown to guard against serious diseases, from cardiovascular disease to cognitive dysfunction. What’s more, they are the most significant source of dietary lycopene – a powerful cancer-fighting antioxidant.
The truth about shop-bought tomatoes
You may be shocked to discover current food production methods have caused a decline in the nutrient content of shop-bought tomatoes. Those grown decades ago were much richer in vitamins and minerals than the ones we buy today. The main culprit is soil depletion, where modern intensive agricultural methods have stripped nutrients from the soil. Added to this is the issue of transit: your tomatoes will have traveled many miles over several days, during which time nutrients degrade. To help them withstand their transport, supermarket tomatoes are frequently picked green before they have the chance to fully develop nutrients and flavour, then they are artificially ripened before being sold.
So how can you ensure you get truly nutrient-packed tomatoes? The answer is grow your own!
Grow your own nutrient-rich tomatoes
The best way to ensure you are getting the most nutritional tomatoes possible is to grow your own in a healthy soil ecosystem. You’ll be rewarded with robust fruit and a full delicious flavour.
Tomatoes are easy plants to grow. Here are 5 simple steps to set you on your way…
1. Sow seeds indoors
Start your tomato seeds indoors, six to eight weeks before the last frost in your area. Sowing your seeds early will maximize their long growing season. Tomatoes germinate best in soil that is warm, about 80 degrees fahrenheit. When they start to sprout they will need plenty of light. A greenhouse is an ideal location, otherwise an indoor space with grow lights can be used.
2. Transplant to your garden
When your seedlings are about a foot tall and there’s no sign of further frost, they will need transplanting outside. Tomatoes prefer well-drained and relatively neutral soils, between pH 6.0 and 6.8. Choose a sunny spot as they require at least 6 hours of sunshine daily. When planting, don’t be afraid to bury up to two thirds of the stem in the soil along which new roots will grow.
3. Water and feed regularly
Tomato plants thrive with a good supply of water. Little and often will give you the best results. It’s recommended to add a layer of mulch to the soil to help maintain consistent moisture levels and prevent evaporation. Ensure you also feed your plants with a fertilizer on a weekly basis.
4. Give your plants friends!
Companion planting is a useful way to help protect plants against diseases and pests. Some of the most popular companions to tomatoes are basil, mint, chives, marigolds, nasturtium, carrots and lettuce. If you are growing tomatoes in your vegetable patch, keep cabbages away as they will have a detrimental effect on yield.
5. Harvest the fruits of your labour!
As your tomato fruit ripens and gains full colour, it’s time to harvest. This should only take a couple of months from sowing the seeds.
A thoroughly rewarding exercise, growing your own tomatoes ensures you get the very best quality nutrients, a thoroughly tasty fruit, satisfaction from a successful gardening project and more money in your wallet!