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Tomatoes Solanum lycopersicum

Other Common Name(s):

Previously known as:

  • Lycopersicon esculentum
Phonetic Spelling
so-LAY-num ly-koh-PER-see-kum
This plant has medium severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

Tomatoes are a garden favorite, the most popular homegrown vegetable, with fruits that come in various colors from yellow to red to purple and sizes small to large.  While the portion eaten is botanically a fruit, tomatoes are used as and considered a vegetable due to their savory flavor.  They are in the nightshade family and, although they have been cultivated in North America for a long time, are not considered native.

They need fertile well-drained garden soil, full sun, warmth and plenty of water.  They prefer a slightly acidic soil, 5.5 to 7 pH.  Keep the soil consistently watered to avoid blossom end rot and splitting fruit.  While they need decent nutrition, too much fertilizer– especially nitrogen– can lead to extensive leafy growth with little fruit production.  Cultivars come in bush-type (determinate), semi-determinate, and vining (indeterminate): bush-types are small and compact with a set amount of fruit production while vining plants grow several feet tall and produce fruit continuously until frost, with semi-determinate falling somewhere in-between.  While determinate cultivars do not always need support, It is best to cage tomato plants as most have weak stems that tend to sprawl on the ground if not staked.  These can be set up during planting.

Tomatoes can be started by seed indoors 5-6 weeks before planting or bought as transplants.  Plant outdoors after the risk of frost has passed, watering plants well before transplanting and choosing a location where other nightshade-family plants have not been grown within the past 3-4 years.  Plant as early as possible as North Carolina's hot summers can cause blossoms to drop before setting fruit.  Larger fruits like beefsteak tomatoes are harder to produce in NC for this reason.  Space plants 18-24 in apart.  Tomatoes will grow extra roots on portions of the stem that are under the soil; remove the lower set of leaves and bury the lower portion of the stem 2-3 in below the ground to increase root growth and plant vigor.  Tomatoes can also be grown in containers at a minimum of 5 gal and 1-2 ft deep, one plant per pot.

 

PROBLEMS: Tomatoes are susceptible to many pests and diseases such as blights, blossom end-rot, wilts, bacterial and viral diseases, tomato hornworms, aphids, beetles, and cutworms. Then there are problems like the weather and man-made issues as watering overhead. They can be a lot of work but well worth the effort.

According to Dr. Anna Dulaney, Clinical Toxicologist and Assistant Director of Education for the Carolinas Poison Center, since their database began in 1997 there has been only one reference to a child having a reaction related to consuming tomato leaves or stems.  In that instance, the child made and consumed a "Pie" consisting of cedar wood chips, grass clippings, tomato leaves and various other items.  That child vomited, but due to the large number of ingredients in the mixture, it is impossible to attribute the upset stomach to the consumption of tomato leaves.  She noted that in their database, the largest number of tomato leaves consumed at one time was 5 or 6 and that there were no ill effects. (This footnote inserted by Dr. Lucy Bradley, NC State Extension Urban Horticulture Specialist 10/26/2010)

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See this plant in the following landscapes:
Vegetable No-Till Garden Vegetable Garden- Containers Vegetable Garden- Raised Beds Vegetable No-Till Garden Vegetable Garden and Pollinator Plants
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Beefmaster'
    Beefsteak tomato; adapted to southern heat
  • 'Better Boy'
    Reliable hybrid, resistant to fusarium wilt and root knot nematodes
  • 'Big Beef'
    Beefsteak tomato; adapted to southern heat
  • 'Big Boy'
    Beefsteak tomato; adapted to southern heat
  • 'Celebrity'
    Reliable hybrid, resistant to fusarium wilt and root knot nematodes
  • ‘Cherokee Purple’
    Heirloom; grows well in NC's heat and humidity
  • 'Early Girl'
    Reliable hybrid, resistant to fusarium wilt
  • 'Fletcher'
    Developed by NC State; disease-resistant hybrid, adapted for NC conditions
  • ‘German Johnson’
    Heirloom; grows well in NC's heat and humidity
  • ‘Homestead'
    Heirloom; grows well in NC's heat and humidity
  • 'Juliet'
    Cherry tomato; easy to grow
  • ‘Marglobe’
    Heirloom; grows well in NC's heat and humidity
  • 'Mountain Fresh'
    Developed by NC State; disease-resistant hybrid, adapted for NC conditions
  • 'Mountain Magic'
    Developed by NC State; disease-resistant hybrid, adapted for NC conditions
  • 'Mountain Pride'
    Developed by NC State; disease-resistant hybrid, adapted for NC conditions
  • 'Super Fantastic'
  • ‘Super Sweet 100’
    Cherry tomato; easy to grow
  • ‘Sweet Million’
    Cherry tomato; easy to grow
'Beefmaster', 'Better Boy', 'Big Beef', 'Big Boy', 'Celebrity', ‘Cherokee Purple’, 'Early Girl', 'Fletcher', ‘German Johnson’, ‘Homestead', 'Juliet', ‘Marglobe’, 'Mountain Fresh', 'Mountain Magic', 'Mountain Pride', 'Super Fantastic', ‘Super Sweet 100’, ‘Sweet Million’
Tags:
#bees#red#sun#poisonous#full sun#annual#summer annual#container plant#yellow flowers#summer flowers#vegetable garden#red fruits#edible fruits#vegetable#edible garden#edible#container#fruit#container vegetable garden#warm season vegetable#problem for cats#ebh-vh#ebh#pollinators#summer#pollinator garden#summer garden#problem for dogs#containers#problem for horses
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Beefmaster'
    Beefsteak tomato; adapted to southern heat
  • 'Better Boy'
    Reliable hybrid, resistant to fusarium wilt and root knot nematodes
  • 'Big Beef'
    Beefsteak tomato; adapted to southern heat
  • 'Big Boy'
    Beefsteak tomato; adapted to southern heat
  • 'Celebrity'
    Reliable hybrid, resistant to fusarium wilt and root knot nematodes
  • ‘Cherokee Purple’
    Heirloom; grows well in NC's heat and humidity
  • 'Early Girl'
    Reliable hybrid, resistant to fusarium wilt
  • 'Fletcher'
    Developed by NC State; disease-resistant hybrid, adapted for NC conditions
  • ‘German Johnson’
    Heirloom; grows well in NC's heat and humidity
  • ‘Homestead'
    Heirloom; grows well in NC's heat and humidity
  • 'Juliet'
    Cherry tomato; easy to grow
  • ‘Marglobe’
    Heirloom; grows well in NC's heat and humidity
  • 'Mountain Fresh'
    Developed by NC State; disease-resistant hybrid, adapted for NC conditions
  • 'Mountain Magic'
    Developed by NC State; disease-resistant hybrid, adapted for NC conditions
  • 'Mountain Pride'
    Developed by NC State; disease-resistant hybrid, adapted for NC conditions
  • 'Super Fantastic'
  • ‘Super Sweet 100’
    Cherry tomato; easy to grow
  • ‘Sweet Million’
    Cherry tomato; easy to grow
'Beefmaster', 'Better Boy', 'Big Beef', 'Big Boy', 'Celebrity', ‘Cherokee Purple’, 'Early Girl', 'Fletcher', ‘German Johnson’, ‘Homestead', 'Juliet', ‘Marglobe’, 'Mountain Fresh', 'Mountain Magic', 'Mountain Pride', 'Super Fantastic', ‘Super Sweet 100’, ‘Sweet Million’
Tags:
#bees#red#sun#poisonous#full sun#annual#summer annual#container plant#yellow flowers#summer flowers#vegetable garden#red fruits#edible fruits#vegetable#edible garden#edible#container#fruit#container vegetable garden#warm season vegetable#problem for cats#ebh-vh#ebh#pollinators#summer#pollinator garden#summer garden#problem for dogs#containers#problem for horses
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Solanum
    Species:
    lycopersicum
    Family:
    Solanaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Cultivated widely for its fruit
    Life Cycle:
    Annual
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Peru
    Wildlife Value:
    Attract bees, especially bumblebees.
    Climbing Method:
    Scrambler
    Edibility:
    Berries (tomatoes) edible when unripe or ripe and raw, cooked, or dried. Many plants will drop fruit when ripe or the fruit will come off easily. Tomatoes will continue to ripen once picked. Store at room temperature.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 2 ft. 0 in. - 10 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 2 ft. 0 in. - 4 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Annual
    Edible
    Poisonous
    Vegetable
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Multi-stemmed
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    High
    Medium
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    3 feet-6 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b, 10a, 10b, 11a, 11b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Orange
    Pink
    Purple/Lavender
    Red/Burgundy
    Variegated
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Berry
    Fruit Length:
    > 3 inches
    Fruit Width:
    > 3 inches
    Fruit Description:
    A red or yellow berry, though cultivars exist in oranges, greens, pinks, and purples in various sizes.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Cyme
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Summer
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Yellow 5 petaled blooms with recurved petals in clusters of 3 to 12. Stamens are partially fused to the pistils.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Rough
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Leaf Type:
    Compound (Pinnately , Bipinnately, Palmately)
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Lanceolate
    Leaf Margin:
    Lobed
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Strongly scented deeply lobed and toothed leaves. They change shape throughout the plant's life cycle.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    Yes
    Stem Surface:
    Hairy (pubescent)
    Stem Description:
    "Sticky", fuzzy surface with a noticable tomato smell.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Landscape Theme:
    Edible Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Design Feature:
    Small groups
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Pollinators
    Problems:
    Poisonous to Humans
    Problem for Cats
    Problem for Dogs
    Problem for Horses
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    Medium
    Poison Symptoms:
    Leaves and stems cause headaches, abdominal pain, dilated pupils, vomiting, diarrhea, hypersalivation, severe gastrointestinal upset, circulatory and respiratory depression, and loss of sensation if eaten in large quantities.
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Glycoalkoloids: solanine and demissine
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    No
    Poison Part:
    Leaves
    Stems