There is a long-lasting debate on what tomato should be categorised as: a fruit or a vegetable? Although from the perspective of botany, it is a fruit, tomatoes are eaten and prepared like a vegetable. You can preserve it and use it round the year; you can add it in curries, slice them up and toss them in a salad, roast them and make chutneys and if you're feeling a little adventurous, you can even make desserts out of it. The possibilities of this vegetable are endless!
The health benefits of tomatoes are diverse. Tomatoes contain Vitamin A, which boosts immunity and helps improve vision and skin health. They also contain Vitamin K, which is good for bones, and potassium, a key nutrient for heart function, muscle contractions, and maintaining a healthy blood pressure and fluid balance. Tomatoes are also a great source of Vitamin C which, along with other components, helps fight the formation of free radicals. Tomatoes possess an antioxidant called lycopene, which gives them their red colour. Lycopene also protects against different types of cancer. Consuming tomatoes helps to reduce blood glucose in people with diabetes. Tomatoes are also considered among the best foods that contribute towards maintaining healthy teeth and bones. Topical application of tomato juice plays a role in curing severe sunburns. Tomatoes keep the digestive system healthy by preventing both constipation and diarrhea. They also prevent jaundice and effectively remove toxins from the body. Furthermore, they have a large amount of fibre, which adds bulk to stool, reducing symptoms of constipation and preventing diarrhea.
Sirajul Islam Pintu, a tomato farmer from Shahbazpur, Jashore, shares his experience of growing this vegetable. Tomatoes can be grown throughout the year. They require deep, well-drained and sandy loam soil to grow. Fertilisers such as TSP, potash, urea are applied on the land before planting the seeds. Pesticides are applied later on tomato leaves. Initially, irrigation is required daily after transplanting the seedlings. The interval for irrigation may gradually increase, ranging from 3-4 days to 10-12 days. Tomatoes can be harvested on alternate days, approximately three months after plantation. It is important to cover tomatoes with nets as they are prone to be eaten by birds when they become ripe.
Sirajul Islam Pintu, along with many farmers of the area, provides vegetables for Shwapno under the Shuddho project. According to Sirajul, this initiative has helped him adopt the right agricultural practices for growing tomatoes, especially in terms of learning about how much fertiliser or pesticide should be used. Farmers also have an opportunity to learn about the interval period between pesticide application and harvesting, known as the Pre-Harvest Interval (PHI).
Tomatoes aren't merely condiments you add to dishes. They are powerhouses filled with nutrients that one needs for a healthier life.
A joint initiative of Shwapno and The Daily Star