Garden-to-table guide to tomatoes

Tips for growing and caring for tomato plants, plus our favorite recipes come harvest time

Homegrown tomatoes

Photo by Ted Stefanski; written by Julie Chai

Homegrown tomatoes

Nothing beats the flavor of a ripe, homegrown tomato—it’s the pure essence of summer.  And you can get plants in the ground as soon as the weather warms up in spring, after all danger of frost has passed.

With hundreds of varieties to choose from—in shades of gold, orange, crimson, chocolate, and even green; in sizes ranging from cherry types that you can pop into your mouth like grapes to giant two-pounders—your biggest challenge will be finding room for all the varieties you want to grow!

More: Our favorite varieties to help you get started

 

 

 

How to plant and grow

Written by Julie Chai

How to plant and grow

Tomatoes love heat, so grow them in a spot that gets full sun (this means at least six hours a day). Before you plant, mix 4 to 6 inches of mature compost into your soil so that it’s packed with nutrients. You can give tomatoes a stronger start by pinching off some of the lower leaves, and planting their stems deeply.

It’s also important to stake or cage your tomatoes at planting time, so that you keep leaves and fruit off the ground, and give plants good air circulation. When plants are young, water often enough so that their roots don’t dry out, and keep the soil moist but not soggy. As plants grow, water less often but very deeply since tomatoes have deep roots.

More:

How to plant tomatoes

How to make a cage

How to stake

How to harvest

Photo by Norman A. Plate; written by Margo True

How to harvest

Snip fruit from the stem with scissors or puners or gently pull by hand. Tomatoes ripen best on the vine. If your plants still have green tomatoes hanging on them after the weather starts turning cold, pick them from the vine and bring them indoors to ripen.

Marinated Heirloom Tomato Salad

Photo by Andrea Gomez; written by Margo True

How to cook: Our favorite tomato recipes

After a few months, once you’re ready to harvest, here are some of our favorite ways to eat tomatoes.

Marinated Heirloom Tomato Salad

This is a great way to show off all the different varieties of tomatoes you’ve grown. Try mixing whole cherry tomatoes on the stem with juicy slices and wedges of larger tomatoes, and use as many colors as you have available.

Recipe:  Marinated Heirloom Tomato Salad

Roasted Tomato and Three-Chile Salsa

Photo by Iain Bagwell; written by Margo True

Roasted Tomato and Three-Chile Salsa

Heat and a bit of blackening gives the tomato a savory depth that’s only enhanced by toasted chiles. Make the salsa to eat on the side with chips or grilled meats, or use it in any of the three recipes we developed to showcase it: beef burgers, smoky huevos rancheros, or Mexican steak salad.

Recipe: Roasted Tomato and Three-Chile Salsa

Tiered Tomato Soup

Photo by James Carrier; written by Margo True

Tiered Tomato Soup

Such a pretty soup! It’s cool tomato on the top and velvety avocado below. Top it with a sprinkle of diced cucumber, and you have summer in a glass.

Recipe:  Tiered Tomato Soup

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