Tomato Tales

This is an excerpt from my column in AY Magazine. Read the entire article here.

Long before social media was even a spark in our collective conscious, bits of “wisdom” have been going viral via word of mouth in the form of old wives tales and folklore.

For me, these stories are interesting because they are part of our oral tradition. For instance, how many of you have heard that it is bad luck to place a hat on a bed or that going out in the cold with wet hair will make you sick?

Of course, my favorite anecdotes are about gardening and some of the best are related to growing tomatoes. It seems everyone’s grandmother had a pearl of wisdom about getting the growing the best tasting tomato.

Matt's Wild Cherry Tomato

Here are a few tomato tales that I’m familiar with. Some are based in fact, while others are pure fiction.

  1. Sprinkle sugar in the planting hole or water your tomatoes with sugar water to make them sweeter. This is untrue. The sweetness of a tomato is determined by the variety. If you want a sweet tomato try planting ‘Sungold’ or ‘Mr. Stripey’.
  2. If you have a tomato plant that is lush, but doesn’t set fruit, beat it with a broom. The idea behind this tip is that the beating will stress the plant and prompt bloom. More blooms mean a better chance for tomatoes. I haven’t tried this one, but the old-timers swear by it.
  3. To prevent blossom end rot add crushed eggshells to the planting hole. This suggestion actually has legs to it. The eggshells are a good source of calcium, which helps reduce blossom end rot.How about you? What’s the best tomato growing “advice” you know? Have you tried any of these tips?

9 Responses to Tomato Tales

  1. JennyBean says:

    Jude, my family in central Alabama, where the soil is clay, has the best tomatoes on earth. In coastal S.C. where we have rich soil, the tomatoes are mealy and don’t have the same flavor. Last year, I planted my tomatoes in big pots on my sunny front porch using good potting soil. I also used a Topsy Turvy and the instructions said to use Canadian peat-based potting soil. I did and my tomatoes were wonderful.

  2. Peggy says:

    Has anyone ever heard that you should not touch a tomato or the plant if you smoke or have handled tobacco of any kind? I had never heard this before yesterday…a young man shared this with a volunteer planting a tomato.

    • Rena Williams says:

      Yes,,,I have heard this for years. I work in a greenhouse part-time they owners are very strict about an employees who smoke have to scrub their hands before handling any plants especially tomatoes. I have also read about it many times. i believe it’s because you could transmit tobacco disease to the plants which they are easily susceptible to.

    • Rena Williams says:

      I spray my tomato plants with epsom salt water. I also use Tums tablets crushed and dissolved in water and poured around plant soil to help deter blossom end rot.

    • Marye says:

      Although I do not smoke, My dad and grandfather did. They both had great sucess with tomatoes. ( and gardening in general) So I do not agree with the idea that smokers compromise the sucess of tomato crops.

  3. susan says:

    I surround each tomato base with a layer of newspaper covered with soil. I never have to weed too close to the tomato stems and I have produced outstanding plants !

  4. Stewart Darrah says:

    I can see some of the reasoning behind beating the plant with a broom. It might help pollinate the plants, somewhat like the vibrators used to pollinate greenhouse tomatoes.

  5. keith sandrock says:

    Want to keep tomato worms away from your plants? Plant Jalapeno Pepper plants near them. You will not have worms.

  6. Deloris says:

    I always put a big handful of epsom salts and of powdered milk in my planting hole and plant them deep. Then I plant basil, geranium and marigold (french) around the area.

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