Tomato’s scientific name is Solanum lycopersicum and is a member of the Solanaceae family. This family also includes other commonly used vegetables like potatoes, peppers, and many others. It is a perennial plant, although most producers grow it as an annual.
Tomato plant is a dicot and herbaceous plant. The plant forms a pile root that grows to a depth of up to 2 meters (6,6 ft.). It develops vines that grow as branching stems. At the top, there is a terminal bud. When this bud stops developing further, the plant takes the sign to start growing peripheral buds and consequently new vines. Tomato leaves are usually compound; however, some varieties have simple leaves 10-25 cm (4 -10 inches) long, pinnate with 5-7 leaflets. Both the vines and the leaves are covered with tiny hairs.
Flowers are yellow with five lobes on the corolla. They are 1-2 cm (0,4 – 0,8 inch) diameter and grow on the apical meristem. Fruits are berries with small oval to round-shaped, flat, ochre-colored seeds.
People around the globe cultivate more than 9.000 tomato varieties. These varieties can be divided into three major categories based on their growth. The three categories of development are:
- Indeterminate – In this category, there are varieties with continuous growth. The plants have a relatively constant number of leaves between their inflorescences. We cultivate these varieties mainly indoors. If they grow outdoors, they need support through staking.
- Semi-Determinate – In this category, there are varieties whose shoots stop growing when they are at an advanced stage. This category is particularly preferred for outdoor cultivation.
- Determinate – In this category, there are varieties whose shoots interrupt their lateral growth after they give a certain number of flowers (depending on the variety).
Wild tomato varieties were small and mostly yellow, not red. We could say that they were similar to what we know today as cherry tomatoes. Nowadays, apart from different sizes, we can also find different colors of tomatoes varying from our familiar red, to pink, yellow, orange, purple, white and black.