Monday, May 3, 2010

Is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable?

Well that really depends on whether you are a chef or a botanist. As defined by science, a fruit is classified as the ovary and seeds of a flowering plant. The tomato with its seedy interior and juicy red fruit that develops from a flowering plant fits this description.

However, the tomato is not like other fruits because it isn't sweet, nor is it typically served for dessert (unless you are on Iron Chef) so the culinary community classifies the tomato as a vegetable.

Where do I stand on the issue? While I am not a professional chef, I know my way around a kitchen, and my kitchen has never produced a dish where the tomato was used as a fruit. On the other hand, while I am no botanist (though I do appreciate good greenery haha) the tomato does fit quite snugly into the fruit category. Final answer? I'll side with science. It's a fruit.

Now that we have figured out what a tomato is, lets learn how to make one grow. I was purchasing salad items today (note, the tomatoes at Shop Rite have their OWN kiosk/section placed conveniently in between the fruit and vegetables) and thought, wouldn't it be nice if I could grow my own tomatoes? So after the store I drove down to Metropolitan plant where a very nice man helped me pick some basil and tomato plants. Then, he potted them for me. And carried the pot to my car (if only he had paid too).

The end result...

My balcony tomato/basil garden.

I asked a friend of mine who happens to be a plant farmer what I need to do to keep a plant alive...
Encyclopedia Branigan: I'm buying plants. Any suggestions on how to not kill them?
Farmer Friend: Hmm water and sun help out. What kind of plants?
Encyclopedia Branigan: Tomato and basil
Farmer Friend: Ohh nice. Tomato will need fertilizer.
Encyclopedia Branigan: What. Why?
Farmer Friend: Because they get hungry.
Encyclopedia Branigan: Ok what do I feed them?
Farmer Friend: Tomato food, what else?
Encyclopedia Branigan: Ketchup?
Farmer Friend: That's like feeding your dog ground dog meat dude.
So what should you do to help tomatoes grow into delicious caprice salad? Here are some tips...
  1. Don't crowd them - as you can see there is only one tomato in that GIANT pot. The basil's roots won't grow as deep
  2. Go deep - tomato plants can grow roots out of their stems, so plant them far down into the soil
  3. Give them lots of sun (something mine will not get as the balcony is covered)
  4. Water them a lot (another problem mine might have. I remember to water the dog, that's enough) if they are too dry the fruit can crack and become yucky.
  5. Be a stalker - tomatoes are vines, and need something to keep them upright as they grow. A nice stick and some twine should do the trick. Garden stores also sell wire cones if you feel like being fancy.

That's it. Cross your fingers, it will take more than silver bells and cockle shells to make my garden grow.

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