Oh, my poor tomatoes

This year the weather has been something to talk about… It has been extremely cold, extremely hot and anywhere in between. And it’s also been frustrating to see almost 20 tomato plants in full fruit and none red! Until late last week, we had no red tomatoes. I remember in other years by Victoria Day long weekend (first August weekend) I would have my very first taste of a juicy home grown tomato – not this year!

A very important factor in how long it takes for a tomato to turn red is the outside temperature. Tomatoes will only produce lycopene and carotene, two substances that help a tomato turn red, between the temperatures of 10-29C (50 and 85F). If it is any cooler that 10C/ 50F, those tomatoes will stay a stubborn green. Any warmer than 29C/85F, and the process that produces lycopene and carotene comes to a screeching halt. And withing the last month we have experienced both extremities with variation of a few days. I’m sure the plants were not very happy… A couple of days of down pour rain created the feared leaf rot and now they all look so sad.


[my poor tomatoes and a field cucumber]

Last evening, I’ve picked all the red ones I found and all of the ones that had fallen down. I am hoping to save them. Tomatoes are triggered to turn red by a chemical called ethylene. When the tomato reaches the proper green mature stage, it starts to produce ethylene. Now, providing that those fallen green tomatoes have reached maturity, by placing them in a paper bag, the trapped ethylene will help ripen them. We’ll see how well that works, given that they are already a little tainted.


Unfortunately, Mother Nature is not something that can be easily controlled and there are not too many things that a gardener can do to hurry the ripening process for the tomatoes that are still on the plant before the really cold weather starts.


Fun Fact: Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that may help protect cells from damage. People take lycopene for preventing heart disease, “hardening of the arteries” (atherosclerosis); and cancer of the prostate, breast, lung, bladder, ovaries, colon, and pancreas. Lycopene is also used for treating human papilloma virus (HPV) infection, which is a major cause of uterine cancer. Some people also use lycopene for cataracts and asthma. This is why there is a lot of research interest in lycopene’s role, if any, in preventing cancer.

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