One of our favorite summer crops is the colored tomato. Tomatoes can be considered a “wonder fruit” because of their health-promoting phytonutrients. Phytonutrient-rich tomatoes are usually a vibrant red, orange or yellow color and help paint a beautiful picture of health.
Tomatoes that are red have high amounts of lycopene, which helps slow our skin’s aging and helps fight against certain chronic diseases, as well as vitamins C, B3, B5, B6, E and K. Red tomatoes contain more vitamin A than any other color.
If you are looking to add varieties of tomatoes to enhance your health, try a few of these. The Mr. Stripey is a red and yellow striped variety with an appearance that is considerably different than other tomatoes. They have a sweet flavor and an average size of 1 to 2 pounds. The Mr. Stripey is considered a “slicer” tomato, but they can be used in many ways.
A variety that is more suited to sauces and is considered high in phytonutrients is the San Marzano. San Marzano is a small, plum tomato variety that has an elongated, thin oval shape with a pointed tip that averages 3 ounces. This is a dark red tomato with an easy to peel skin over a flesh with very few seeds.
Other suggested varieties for West Virginia include Brandywine, Celebrity Plus, Big Beef, Mortgage Lifter, Mt. Fresh Plus, Hillbilly and Kellogg’s Breakfast. Grape and cherry varieties like Sun Sugar, Cupid and Valentine also are excellent choices.
Tomatoes can grow roots along their stems, so when planting a tomato transplant, put it in the ground up to its first set of leaves and allow 36 inches between plants.
Even the most unique tomatoes should be staked, caged or trellised to allow enough support for the fruit and adequate airflow, which helps prevent blight. Mulching around the plants will help reduce disease and help the soil hold moisture.
By Brian Sparks, WVU Extension Agent – Fayette and Nicholas Counties