Unusual Tomatoes

Unusual Tomatoes

Online Magazine

Unusual Tomatoes

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Unusual Tomatoes

Unusual Tomatoes

Unusual Tomatoes
Unusual Tomatoes
Unusual Tomatoes

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Online Magazine

Unusual Tomatoes

By Robert Laurence

Unusual Tomatoes (Solanaceae family). As noted, tomatoes are technically berries, but since covering all the common garden varieties would take a book only several of the more unusual, little grown types are briefly included here. Unlike garden tomatoes, most of these are used to make jams, preserves, and desserts.

Cyphomandra Betacea. The tree tomato. A sweet, fruit, it can be eaten raw but is best when cooked for jams and preserves. A very ornamental tree that was first grown by the Indians of ancient Peru on mountainsides at elevations up to 8,000 feet, the tree tomato grows up to 12 feet tall, has foot long elephant eared leaves, fragrant purple and green flowers, and yields clusters of fruits that are egg shaped, smooth skinned, and orange red when ripe. It bears fruit up to seven months a year and can be grown outdoors where the temperature never falls much below 50*F., but must be taken in during the winter months elsewhere and grown in a greenhouse or a large, sunny window. Seedling plants grown in a greenhouse or a large, sunny window. Seedling plants grown in containers should be potted in rich loam with leaf mold and well-rotted manure added to it, the size o the pot increased every year to accommodate root growth until the plant finally occupies a large pot. The plants are usually cut back in winter to encourage spring flowering, that being the extent of all pruning. Tree tomatoes are easily grown from seed but potted plants can also be purchased. A source for both is Lakeland Nurseries.

Physalis Pruinosa. The ground cherry, strawberry tomato, or husk tomato. This plant resembles a dwarf cherry-tomato bush, 18 to 24 inches tall, but bears deep yellow, cherry-sized fruit that is all wrapped up in a parchment like husk. The ground cherry is an annuyal that is grown exactly like garden tomatoes and bears prolifically. Sources for this and the husk tomatoes following are Burgess, Farmer, Jung, and Gurney.

Physalis Ixocarpa. The tomatillo, Mexican ground cherry, jamberry. Though it is a taller plant, 3 to 4 feet high, and yields larger fruit, up to an inch in diameter, the tomatillo is cultivated exactly the same as the ground cherry above and used in the same way. The tomatillo fruit, however, completely fills its husk and often bursts, revealing the ripe fruit; thus it is more difficult to remove the sticky fruit from the husk, though this can be done by soaking the husk in water.

Physalis Peruviana. The Peruvian cherry or Cape gooseberry. Another husk tomato, but one that is treated as a tender perennial; that is, it can be grown outdoors when temperatures don’t fall below 45*F. or grown inside a greenhouse or sunny window during the winter and transplanted outside again in the spring. Otherwise it should be cultivated the same as the above husk tomatoes. It bears cherry-sized fruits that are easily removed from the deep-gold husks.

The Golden Berry. An interrelated cross of forms of Physalis that is the newest kind of husk tomato, first introduced in America by England’s Thompson & Morgan Inc., in 1976. Golden Berry is cultivated exactly like other husk tomatoes, but yields up to four pounds of juicy-sweet fruit a plant. 

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Unusual Tomatoes