A great supporter of overall health. Tomatoes have a lot of vitamins C and A, plus beta-carotene and the pigment lycopene, all super antioxidants that help prevent cell damage by free radical oxygen molecules. These phytonutrients work in synergy with other vitamins and minerals in tomatoes to promote heart and bone health and protect against inflammation and a number of cancers. (The cardiovascular benefits come from helping to regulate blood pressure and reduce damage to blood vessels from oxidative stress, plaque buildup and elevated homocysteine levels.) Regularly eating tomatoes can lower cholesterol levels, promote proper fetal development and regulate blood sugar. The B vitamins help make use of the energy in food.
Vitamin and Mineral Content:
Vitamins – C, A, K, B1 (Thiamin), B6 (Pyridoxine), B9 (Folate), B3 (Niacin), B2 (Riboflavin), B5 (Pantothenic Acid) and E
Minerals – Molybdenum, Potassium, Manganese, Chromium, Copper, Magnesium, Iron and Phosphorus
Tomatoes reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid and osteoarthritis and asthma. They also help prevent cataracts and lower the risk of prostate, breast, lung, stomach, pancreatic, colon, rectal and endometrial cancers.
How to Grow
Plant in full sun, amend the soil well with a good compost or planting mix. They prefer a pH of 6. Tomatoes grow and produce best outdoors. They can also grow in containers (minimum 15 gallons of potting soil) but not to their full potential. More soil volume is best. Start from seed indoors 6 weeks before the last frost, or buy transplants from a local nursery. Plant seedlings or transplants in space at least 2 feet square. Keep the fruit from drooping onto the ground by growing the upright varieties against canes or wire cages. Pinch out the tops after they make 3-4 groups of fruits. For bush varieties, cover the soil underneath the plants (using bark or similar) so fruits develop off the ground. They are heavy feeders and can take copious amounts of fertilizer. Keep plants moist but not sopping wet to avoid fungal diseases.
Tomatoes are susceptible to tomato hornworm. Spray foliage with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) for natural control. You can also remove worms by hand early in the morning. Worms are usually on top of the foliage and are easy to remove and discard. As a general measure, you can spray with a botanical insecticide-fungicide for natural control of most insect pests and diseases, such as early blight, gray leaf spot, late blight, Septoria leaf spot, Southern blight and verticillium wilt.
Pick or buy tomatoes fully ripe, the redder the better. Ripe tomatoes may have 4 times more beta-carotene than green, immature ones. This makes backyard tomatoes the best. You know they were not picked green and shipped to ripen weeks later.