the land at its festive best
The tomato plant (Lycopersicon esculentum) is a herbaceous perennial that usually reaches a height of approximately 1.2 meters, although it may grow taller. When the plants are young, they are erect but once they mature, the stem is not rigid and does not support the weight of the leaves and the fruit, therefore it requires a structure to be able to sustain itself. It is considered the most important garden variety crop in the world, since it is present directly or indirectly in the majority of the culinary traditions worldwide. The tomato is a berry possessing two cavities. Red is its traditional color once it is ripe, although some varieties may display a wide range of colors.
The fresh fruit is a very common ingredient in salads; it is also consumed in the form of juice and homemade sauces. It is used in industrial canned products, especially tomato salsa and paste. For industrial use, the tomato varieties are firmer and possess thicker peels than the tomatoes eaten fresh. It is a low-calorie food since most of its weight is water and is an important source of certain minerals, such as potassium and magnesium. The tomato is rich in vitamins B and C. In addition, it possesses the four most important carotenes: alpha and beta-carotene, lutein and lycopene, an excellent antioxidant, which protects skin tissue, rids the body of toxins and helps prevent cancer.
The tomato has its origins in the lower Andes and was cultivated by the Aztecs in Mexico. It dates back to the Peruvian Incas, and from there arrived in Mexico, where it was cultivated before the Discovery of America. The Spaniards called it “tomato” and took it to Europe in 1540 where it was easily cultivated in the Mediterranean climates.
The tomato is a warm weather crop, with optimum temperatures for its growth that range between 20° and 25°C during the day and between 10° and 18°C during the night. Although its requirements regarding soil is minimal, soils rich in organic material, of good drainage and with a pH close to 7 are recommended. Nevertheless, irrigation is fundamental when it comes to the cultivation of tomatoes because it supplies the plant with enough water during critical stages of its development. On the other hand, the tomato needs very good sunlight; otherwise the processes of growth, blooming, pollination, and ripening of the fruit can be hindered. The tomato reproduces by seed: first in seedbeds, from where they are transplanted to the ground. However, the seed can be directly planted in the soil.
Two large groups are classified according to the plant’s growth development: those of indeterminate growth and those of determinate growth. The former are the plants mostly used for tomato production inside greenhouses. The determinate growth varieties are mostly used to be cultivated in the open. According to its shape, this fruit can be classified as plum, pear, round, cherry, bull heart and bell tomatoes, among others. The round varieties are the most marketable. For greenhouse production, the cherry, bull heart and hybrids are mostly used. According to their colors, the varieties can be: red, yellow, green, black, orange, pink, white and bicolor. Specifically, the Victory, Farmers 301, King Kong, Double, Duke, and Caribbean varieties can be mentioned.
Tomato planting and production in the Dominican Republic
The tomato is the main horticultural crop in the Dominican Republic. Its production must be separated between two large groups: the tomato for fresh consumption in salads and other popular dishes, and the tomato cultivated for industrial processing. The production of tomato for the preparation of salads is grown year round in our country; the months of July, August, September and October are of highest production. Regarding the industrial tomato, it is grown during the months of January, February, March and April.
Domestically, production takes place in Azua, San Jose de Ocoa, Bani, Vicente Noble, Jarabacoa and Constanza. Bani and Azua are two great centers of production. By 2012, the total area planted with salad tomatoes reached 1,270 hectares with a production of 405,758 quintals. Meanwhile, approximately 5,555 hectares of the industrial tomato were planted that same year. In Jarabacoa, most of the production takes place by greenhouse cultivation. According to the Central Bank, in 2011, some 3,356 metric tons were exported at a value of US$3.6million, the highest registered figure. Nonetheless, most of the national production is used in a wide range of products for domestic market.