Looking forward to a summer salad with tomatoes grown from your own garden? Luckily, it's doable in Ontario!
Did you know that Europeans were initially wary of eating tomatoes when they were first introduced to them in the 16th century?
The tomato is native to South America, and when it was brought to Europe, it was initially viewed with suspicion because it was believed to be poisonous. This belief may have been due in part to the fact that the tomato is a member of the nightshade family, which includes other poisonous plants such as belladonna and mandrake.
In addition to fears of toxicity, the tomato's popularity was also hindered by its association with poverty. In many parts of Europe, the tomato was initially grown as an ornamental plant, and it was not until the 18th century that it became more widely accepted as a food item. In Italy, for example, the tomato was initially used in dishes eaten by the lower classes, and it was not until the late 19th century that it became a staple of Italian cuisine. Today, the tomato is a widely used and popular ingredient in European cooking.
Tomatoes can be grown successfully in Ontario, but they require proper care and attention to produce a good harvest. Here are some tips for growing tomato plants in Ontario:
Choose the right variety: Select tomato varieties that are suitable for Ontario's climate and growing season. Look for varieties that are known to do well in cooler temperatures and have a shorter growing season.
Start indoors: Start your tomato seeds indoors in late winter or early spring, and transplant them outdoors after the last frost date. This will give your plants a head start and increase your chances of a successful harvest.
Choose a sunny location: Tomatoes need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day to produce fruit. Choose a location in your garden that receives full sun and has well-draining soil.
Provide support: Tomato plants need support as they grow. Use stakes, cages, or trellises to keep your plants upright and off the ground.
Water regularly: Water your tomato plants regularly, and make sure the soil stays consistently moist. Avoid overhead watering, which can lead to fungal diseases.
Fertilize: Tomatoes need regular fertilization to produce healthy fruit. Use a balanced fertilizer and follow the package instructions for application rates.
Monitor for pests and diseases: Tomatoes are susceptible to pests and diseases, so monitor your plants regularly for signs of problems. Early detection and treatment can prevent damage to your crop.
Remember, growing tomatoes takes patience and practice. Don't be discouraged if your first crop isn't perfect. With some experience, you'll be able to grow healthy tomato plants and enjoy a bountiful harvest.
When you've harvested your gorgeous tomatoes, try out this salad:
4-5 ripe tomatoes, sliced
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
Slice the tomatoes and arrange them on a serving platter.
Thinly slice the red onion and scatter it over the tomatoes.
Sprinkle the chopped basil leaves over the top.
In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Drizzle the dressing over the salad.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve immediately or chill in the refrigerator for up to 1 hour before serving.
Add crumbled feta cheese or fresh mozzarella for a creamy addition to the salad.
Use different types of tomatoes, such as cherry tomatoes or heirloom tomatoes, for a more diverse flavour and appearance.
Add sliced cucumber or avocado for additional texture and flavour.
Use different herbs, such as parsley or cilantro, in place of the basil for a different flavour profile.