Celebrating TomatoesPrinter Friendly Version
Nothing satisfies the gardening cook like the pleasure and satisfaction of harvesting big baskets of richly ripe, juicy tomatoes. Their tangy-sweet full flavor and jewel toned colors are one of the main reasons lots of us got started gardening. It is really true that freshly picked, home grown tomatoes beat anything you can buy by a long country mile, and these natives of South America are vigorous plants available in varieties that grow well for gardeners all over the US.
Tomatoes were carried to Europe as early as the 1500s with the Spanish conquistadors. Southern Europeans began enjoying their fruits early on, but in England they were viewed with suspicion because of their membership in the nightshade family, and mostly grown as ornamentals until the first part of the 19th century. While a few adventurous American colonial gardeners grew tomatoes to eat –Thomas Jefferson is certainly the most well known – most Americans didn't start cultivating tomatoes for the kitchen until the end of the Civil War. By the first part of the present century, wonderful regional varieties were developed, yielding up a rich heritage of delicious diversity that is being rediscovered as the century draws to a close. Recent decades have produced many new hybrids with superior adaptability and needed disease resistance, enabling gardeners even in marginal climates to enjoy fresh harvests from their own kitchen gardens.