This phase comes from the Nahuatl (Aztec) word tomatl which first appeared in writing in 1595, eventually becoming “Tomato”. They grew wild and were very sour. Tomatoes were first cultivated by the Aztecs and Incas as early as 700 AD. The Latin name for the cultivated tomato is Lycopersicon escutentum, which means “edible wolf's peach”. It's still uncertain why this name was chosen. Folklore has it that they used the leaves to poison wolves since the leaves are very toxic. In fact it was first thought that even the fruit was poisonous. We have most definitely come along way since then. I have been getting many questions about this most loved “vegetable”. Tomatoes can have many issues during the growing season. If not taken care of properly, an entire season of growing could be lost.
Fruit or Vegetable?
So what to do think? I have always thought of the tomato as a vegetable when eating or cooking with them. Technically though, the tomato is definitely a fruit. True fruits develop and contain seeds within the fruit. So the tomato is the fruit of a tomato plant, but they are still considered a vegetable when cooking with them. In the late 1800's the tomato was classified as a fruit to avoid taxation, but this was changed after a Supreme Court ruling that the tomato is a vegetable and should be taxed accordingly. Famous quote from that ruling: "Knowledge is to know that a tomato is a fruit, but wisdom is to know not to put one in a fruit salad.”
Blossom End Rot is a rotted brown spot on the base of the developing tomato. It can be caused by a couple of things. A calcium deficiency is one. When the roots are unable to take in sufficient water and calcium transported up to their fast developing fruits, the bottoms become rotted. Inconsistent watering during the time of bud set is another reason. Mulching the soil around them is very helpful in maintaining the right amount of moisture during drought stress. You must pull the tomatoes off that have started this. Do not let it continue growing. The new tomatoes will be fine by using either a calcium fertilizer or amendment specifically for tomatoes. Watering well during the time of bud set will also help with this problem. There are natural & organic products available to help control and correct calcium deficiencies. They can also encourage increased resistance to stress do to weather or inconsistent watering.
Watch for catfacing this year with all of our up & down temperatures. Catfacing produces ugly, gnarled fruits with scars near the blossom end. This is caused by cold or uneven temperatures during fruit development. It can also be viruses, fungi or insect damage. Planting to early is another reason this can happen. Remove bad looking fruit, tomatoes should recover as the weather stabilizes.
Cracking at the stems or shoulders is caused by inconsistent watering during fruit development. This also can happen after the tomatoes have gone through a dry spell then are watered to much to make up for the lack of watering. Some tomato varieties are more resistant to cracking than others. Watering more consistently and mulch will help this. The tomatoes are still edible, just cut out the bad parts and use the rest right away as they don’t hold up as long. Never use these when canning as it may change the acidity.
Anthracnose This is a fungal disease. It looks like water-soaked spots with dark rings on the fruit. Throw away any infected fruit. Do not compost it. Rotate crops every year. Promote good air circulation around plants. Anthracnose can reduce a bountiful harvest into rotted fruit in a few days in warm, moist weather. Unfortunately there are no organic cures but a product called “Serenade” may help control it and many of the diseases listed below.
Early Blight This looks like dark spots surrounded by bull’s-eye rings on the leaves. The fruits rot inside, starting at the stem. The blight can over winter in your soil, so clean up debris. Rotate crops , plant resistant varieties.
Septoria leaf spot This fungus starts on the lower leaves. It looks like little yellow dots that turn brown spots with halos around it. Remove infected leaves. Spores of the fungus are spread by splashing rain. The disease come on by moderate temperatures and extended periods of high relative humidity.
Late Blight is dark spots on the leaves that turn brown then papery. The entire plant can collapse all at once. Provide good air circulation and do not use overhead watering as this will spread the disease. A cool, wet growing season can be the cause. Late blight is not seed borne (however, it is tuber-borne in potato), so tomato plants started from seed locally should be free of the disease.
With the fluctuation in our weather this year many people have had or are having these experiences. Check with your local garden shop for the best solutions and products for you.