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Updated: April 27, 2011 19:54 IST

A powerhouse of vitamins

Thilaka Baskaran
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Spain’s import: Tomatoes are not only healthy but bring vitality to a vegetable garden. Photo: P.V. Sivakumar
Spain’s import: Tomatoes are not only healthy but bring vitality to a vegetable garden. Photo: P.V. Sivakumar

Let your tomatoes ripen on the plant itself; it will taste better than the ones you buy in the market, writes Thilaka Baskaran

When the Spaniards reached South America they found an orange coloured vegetable called ‘tomato'. It was taken to Europe in 1550 and came to India through the British, probably around 1750. After much hybridisation, there is a huge variety of tomatoes in the market. India is among the top five tomato-producing countries in the world.

There are two main varieties of tomatoes: a bushy type that bears a full crop in a short period, a variety that most commercial crops belong to; and an indeterminate vine variety that needs proper staking with sticks or a cage and bears fruit over a long period of time. Most home growers would prefer the latter.

Tomatoes can be grown easily as a container plant also. Probably four or five plants that are well-cared for will yield enough fruits for an average family.

Quick growth

Tomato seeds germinate in seven to 10 days and can be transplanted when the plants have four true leaves. Make sure the soil is a combination of well-rotted compost, cocopeat and some fish and bone meal mixed in. The bushy variety may not need staking but the tall variety does. As the plant grows, prune the side shoots and remove the yellow leaves. Make sure you water it regularly and keep the soil moist.

Tomatoes need a lot of nutrients at different stages of its growth. A couple of weeks after transplanting, start applying manure: after the flowers appear; when the fruit reaches the size of a gooseberry; and after you pick your first ripe tomatoes. But take care not to overdo this as you might end up with a large lush plant with only a few fruits. Plant a few marigolds near the plants to keep pests away. Let your tomatoes ripen on the plant itself. You will notice it tastes better than what you pick up from the shops.

Tomato is very rich in nutrients. A cup of chopped tomato provides 50 percent of the day's requirement of vitamin C, 25 per cent of vitamin A and a host of other vitamins and minerals. Studies suggest that Lycopene, the anti-oxidants that give the colour to the tomato, help prevent several types of cancer.

Keywords: vitamin C

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