TOMATO, a perennial herb (Lycopersicon lycopersicon) of the family Solanacece. It is a native of western South America, whence it was introduced into cultivation in Europe dur ing the 16th century. At first the wrinkled fruits were regarded with suspicion or dis favor, and were more popular as garden orna ments than for other purposes. During the 18th century both yellow and red-fruited sorts were known, but not until the middle of the 19th century was there a decided improvement in the form of the fruit At the beginning of that century the fruits were used to a small extent for pickles and preserves, but less for other purposes. The development of the to mato both in its form and its popularity as a vegetable is mainly due to the care of plant breeders, who have eliminated the wrinldes from the fruit, and to the development of per fect methods of canning. The annual con sumption of tomatoes, both as a salad and cooked ot preserved in various ways, aggre gates thousands of tons in the United States, where the crop is more widely grown than in any other country of the world. The season opens in mid-winter in Florida and the Mississippi delta, and advances northward until Septem ber, when it ends in Canada. Considerable quantities of tomatoes are forced in green houses at various seasons, but especially during the spring months.
Though perennial in its native country and in other frostless climates, the tomato is best known in the temperate regions as an annual herb. It is a straggling, clammy, ill-smelling, grayish-green plant with variously formed pin nate leaves and small racemes of small yellow ish flowers, followed by fleshy many-seeded berries which in some improved horticultural varieties weigh more than a pound. Several botanical varieties have been recognized, among which the following are best known: Cherry tomato (L. lycopersicon, var. ceratiforme), grown in gardens for its little yellow or red globular fruits which are used for home-made preserves and pickles; pear and plum tomato (var. pyrifortne), similar to preceding except in form of fruit; large-leaf tomato (var. grandi folium), a group of varieties originated during ,the closing quarter of the 19th century, and in eluding some of the most important com mercial varieties; the common tomato (var.
vulgare), the most widely cultivated forrn in America. One other species is cultivated. more for ornament than for its fruit, which, although edible, is too small for general house hold use; it is the current tomato (L pimpinellifolium), also known as the German raisin tomato. The vlant is very spreading and branchy, with small egg-shaped leaves and long racemes often bearing more than 30 cur rant-like red fruits. It has produced hybrids with the preceding species, and is useful for covering unsightly objects during the surruner. The former species has been grafted upon its close relative, the potato, but the two plants have never been known to cross-fertilize. These grafts are interesting as curiosities but not otherwise.
Several other plants have been called to mato; the best known are probably the husk tomato (Physalis pubescens), also known as the strawberry tomato, ground cherry and dwarf cape gooseberry. It is popular in gardens for its fruits which are made into preserves or kept in their husks in cool dry rooms until needed for use in mid-winter. The name strawberry tomato is also given to Physarts alkekengi, bet ter known by its specific name and as the win ter cherry or bladder cherry. The red fruits are edible, but are not generally relished. The plant is chiefly ornamental on account of its very showy blood-red calyces. The tree to mato (Cyphomandra betctcea) is cultivated to a small extent for its light brown, egg-shaped fruits, which resemble the tomato in flavor but are rather more musky and acid.
In cool climates the seeds arc generally sown under glass in early spring and pricked out in flats, boxes or pots when the first pair of true leaves apDear, allowing them to stand in the former not closer than three by three inc-hes, or two by six inches. Abundant ventilation should be given at all times and the ternpera ture kept rather low to make the plants grow stocky and able to adapt themselves readily and without check to the conditions of the field. At this time they should be about five inches tall. The sturdier the plant, the less is it likely to suffer under ordinary conditions and care when set in the field, the earlier will it commence to bear, and the more profitable will be the fruit.