The tomato family has lots of interesting members. Let’s look at a few I have seen this past week. (Frost is coming, and the tomatoes will be killed, but not yet, as of the end of September.)
Cherry Tomato Flowers
Look at these magnificent cherry tomato flowers. (Great shot Justine.) In this family the flower can have 5-8 petals, which sometimes look like a star, with separate petals, and sometimes looks like a bell, with the petals connected. There is always that beak in the middle, and the upward, outward flare of the petals. Let’s see how this flower and the fruit it bears changes as we trace it back in time.
Tomatillos are closer to wild tomato than cherry tomatoes. This means they are easier to grow, more resistant to pests, and sturdier through adverse weather conditions. And that means they have denser nutrition and more flavor. You can see in these photos that the sepals (the sepals remain on the cherry tomato like a green star) of the tomatillo flowers grow as the flower falls off. They form a husk that covers the fruit throughout its formation and its ripening, and protect it from rot even when it falls to the ground. I notice that the husk around the tomatillo keeps it from rotting in storage. And when one does go off, it isn’t so likely to spoil its storage neighbors. Tomatillos are not as versatile as tomatoes, but even a little added to your diet can make a difference in your overall health.
Tomatillo Flowers, Open Tomatillo Fruits
Here are the sepals of the husk tomatoes busy protecting their most delicious fruit. The little tomato hiding within this husk is so sweet it makes super sweet cherry tomatoes taste sour. It is really like a little piece of candy. The browner the husk, the riper, and sweeter the fruit within. I need to stop eating these as a snack and start thinking of some way to cook them. Husk tomato pie? Small as they are, they are power packed with nutrition, being just a step away from the wild tomato.
Wild Tomato Flowers
This plant appeared in my meadow without much fanfare. It was instantly recognizable (by the leaves) as something in the tomato family, but whether a gift or a pest was yet to be seen. It has been producing these husked fruits for a few days now, I have yet to taste them, but I am hoping for the best. This year two apple trees that grew from seeds in the compost bore fruit (after seven years of growth) and – amazing grace – they are producing edible, actually sweet and crisp and very yummy, apples, which is a great rarity. Usually apple trees that grow from seeds have inedible fruits.
All Manner of Tomatoes
Here are the fruits of cherry tomatoes (front), tomatillos (in tray, larger), and husk tomato (in tray, small). Check out the recipe for Lacto-Fermented Tomatillo Relish [link] if you have access to this nearly wild tomato. Be sure to remove the husks from the tomatillos and the husk tomatoes before eating them. For a treat, saute halved cherry tomatoes in a little olive oil with garlic, minced parsley, and some calamata olives, stoned and cut in quarters.