Solanum lycopersicum: Yum! It’s tomato time in South Florida. We go to you-pick fields and farmers’ markets. We may have a pot of cherry tomatoes on our balcony, or like Jim and Candy Cosmides we go whole enchilada and grow rows of them in our back yards!
So what exactly is this favorite edible? Let’s see . . . It hails from Central and South American and is a member of the deadly Nightshade family, (think Angel’s Trumpet and Belladona) but its fruit is edible and its leaves only slightly poisonous. Actually, that scientific name you see above, lycopersicum, is Latin for “wolf peach” – which dates from its European introduction in the 16th century when people thought of it as just a bigger, peachier belladonna fruit, which everyone knew was used in witches’ potions to conjure up werewolves. And is this red beauty a fruit or a vegetable? It is botanically a fruit, but it isn’t too sweet, so its culinary use is that of a vegetable. (So too are green beans, eggplants, cucumbers and squashes – they are all the ovary and seeds of a flowering plant, which I have come to understand means they are fruit!) However the U.S. Supreme Court declared the tomato a vegetable (non-botanically speaking, of course) way back in 1893 when there were tariffs on vegetables but not on fruit . . .
I visited the Cosmides backyard over the Christmas holidays and then again last weekend to see how the crop was progressing and to get some growing tips. Jim is growing cherry, Roma, Better Boy and Beefsteak tomatoes and the harvesting is beginning. One row of plants he started from seed and the other row began as small starter plants he bought at Gilmers Nursery at 12325 SW 72nd St. He is staking and pruning his crop with instructions from the YouTube video from Veseysseeds. Jim says to position your plants so they receive 6 – 8 hours of sunlight and warns to be careful not to over water!
Theirs is a gorgeous crop – happy harvesting, Candy and Jim!
-Betsy Tilghman, Nomenclature, Chairman
Candice Cosmides shows off her crop of tomatoes (above). Jim Cosmides waters their beautiful tomato patch (below).