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"If I Were A Tomato, I Would Want To Be Grown In Texas . . . Galveston County, That Is!" Workshop to be held February 12

by William M. Johnson
February 8, 2005

Gardening: Oranges imsgeEven though it’s still February and the daytime temperatures have been on the very cool side at times, now is the time to start preparing for a successful spring tomato growing season. Shown above is a tomato transplant being placed in the soil by expert grower Sam Scarcella who will provide the basics for a successful tomato season at an upcoming program on February 12. Photo credit: William M. Johnson

Imagine that first bite of a sweet, succulent, ripe tomato picked fresh from your garden. That first big bite into a juicy, vine-ripen tomato is likely to be so eagerly taken that a little warm juice runs down your chin as a delightful explosion of flavor awakens taste buds that have gone dormant over the winter.

Anyone–yes anyone–can grow great tasting home-grown tomatoes. Even though it’s still February and the daytime temperatures have been on the very cool side at times, now is the time to start preparing for a successful spring tomato growing season.

To get started on the right foot and to avoid common pitfalls, take time now to attend a workshop entitled "If I Were a Tomato, I Would Want to be Grown in Texas . . . Galveston County, That Is!" The workshop will be presented by Texas Master Gardener Sam Scarcella, on Saturday, February 12, from 9:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. at the Galveston County Extension Office located at 5115 Highway 3 in Dickinson (phone 281-534-3413, Ext. 6). The seminar is free-of-charge but pre-registration is requested due to space limitations (GALV3@wt.net or 281-534-3413, ext. 6).

Sam Scarcella is an accomplished grower of tomatoes and will provide a presentation on site selection, soil preparation, variety selection, planting, fertilization and watering requirements for successful production of tomatoes. Weather permitting, he will provide a demonstration on proper planting techniques in the vegetable beds at the Horticulture Display Garden at the Extension Office.


North Americans and most of the vegetables they eat have one thing in common–most of their ancestors were foreigners. Even the name by which vegetables are identified on the market–truck crops–is foreign, and has nothing to do with transportation.

Only nine of the nearly 50 vegetables which have become common to the American table are natives of the Americas, and they (corn, white potato, sweet potato, lima bean, common bean, tomato, squash, summer squash and pepper) all originated in Central and the northern parts of South America. Those requiring colder climates, like the white potato, originated in the Andes mountains, while the sweet potato developed in the hot, moist climate of sea level.

The list of vegetables that North Americans have adopted is long -- numbering at least 38, but their everyday names conceal the far away places of their origin; the eggplant and cucumber come from India; spinach and muskmelons from Persia; watermelon from Africa, which also sent okra; radishes and Chinese cabbage from China; asparagus, kale and collards from the lands of the Mediterranean, which also sent us cabbage; garden peas from Asia; and kohlrabi and Brussels sprouts from Northern Europe.

Other "foreigners" now in our diets are broccoli, cauliflower, artichoke, beet, rhubarb, parsnip, celery, parsley, leek, Swiss chard, turnip, rutabaga, cowpeas, lettuce, carrot, onion, garlic and chive.

"Truck crop" is the commonly heard _expression to cover all vegetables, but it has no connection with the fact that a good many of them are hauled to market on trucks. An old meaning of the word "truck," derived from the French word troquer, is "to barter or exchange." The word developed a special meaning as a synonym for vegetables in general because of the practice of bartering or dealing in small lots of them in the marketplace.

The growing, marketing and consumption of vegetables in the United States today have come a long way since small lots were bartered. The field-to-table story of today's vegetables is a story of big business, and it is sometimes because of the needs of commerce that a fruit is a vegetable, or a vegetable is treated as a fruit.

The tomato is an example. Botanically speaking, the tomato is a fruit, but legally speaking it is a vegetable. The Supreme Court of the United States said so in 1893. An importer had argued that tomatoes were fruit and therefore not subject to a duty in effect at that time. The Court held that the tomato is a vegetable because it was usually served at dinner in, with, or after the soup, or with fish or meats that constitute the main part of the meal. This is less true now than it was then, for today a much larger part of our tomato crop is made into juice, but the tomato remains, legally, a vegetable.

Botanically speaking, the snap or green beans, the pod of peas, the garden pepper, the okra pod, and many others, are also fruits. But no one doubts that they are vegetables. The cucumber and muskmelon are closely related fruits. Both belong to the genus Cucumis. They are similar in habits of growth and in structure, both are grown by truck farmers by similar methods, move through the same channels of trade and both are eaten raw. Yet we always think of cucumbers as vegetables and of muskmelons as fruit.

While customs typically dictate which plants are treated as vegetables and which as fruit, regardless of how they may be classified, they all taste great when grown in and harvested fresh from the home garden!

Dr. Johnson is a horticulturist with the Galveston County
Extension Office of Texas Cooperative Extension, Texas A&M University. Visit his web site at http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/galveston/index.htm

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