There is nothing like a sensational headline to attract attention. According to a recent article in The Telegraph tomtaoes are amongst a group of plants that trap insects, kill them and let their bodies fall to the ground where they decompose and add to soil nutrients. That is clever but not quite like eating them.
The article continues the hype by saying
The study said it is likely that the meat-eating qualities of many plants has gone unrecognised because they are missing some of the prime characteristics associated with carnivorous species.
There is a big argument that says they are not really eating meat but are composting the bodies and then absorbing the nutrients but there again that is not really a headline grabber.
What this research does show is that we still have a lot to learn about plants and the delicate web of life on this planet.
New research has proved what many alotmenteers have known for a long time, urine is a good fertilizer. So good it can perform as well as bought in artificial fertilizers.
The story appeared on the Environmental News Network yesterday with a report on the results of a trial of fertilizers used on tomatoes carried out by Surendra Pradhan, a researcher at the University of Kuopio, Finland. Plants were fertilized with mineral fertilizer, urine and wood ash, urine only, and no fertilizer. The results show that the urine and wood ash was as good as commercial mineral fertilizer.
The article goes on to say that the down side is that it would require a lot of urine to feed plants on large commercial farms. Why must we always think of large scale mono cropping systems? There are other ways to grow food and in many parts of the world this would be a very easy way of increasing productivity with no capital outlay.
For a couple of years now we have used a sawdust composting toilet at the garden for liquid waste; see previous posts here and here. The urine soaked sawdust goes into the middle of an active compost heap and ends up back on the garden.
Some people find that at best slightly unsavoury and at worst totally disgusting but using human waste is nothing new. Urine is generally quite sterile so is not a particular hazard. While I would think twice about using solid waste on food crops I have no hesitation in using urine. It also makes an excellent compost accelerator!
A new book by Tristram Stuart highlights the immoral and ridiculous waste of food. Stuart makes the point about wasted tomatoes:
The energy that goes into growing the 61,300 tonnes of perfectly good tomatoes that people in the UK throw into their rubbish bins is equal to the amount it takes to grow enough wheat to relieve the hunger of 105m people. (Read more)
This is truly staggering and Stuart is right to link wasted food to wasted energy especially when crops like tomatoes need such high energy inputs to crop year round.
What this comes down to is the way that food is grown and distributed. If we demand a continual supply of everything, and the ability to buy it any time of the day, there will be waste. It has become part of the supermarket way of life but it cannot continue as we just cannot afford to waste so much food and energy.
An article in the Mail Online gives information about the powerful antioxidant effects of lycopene in tomatoes. This is not new but the effects have been quantified and it seems organic toms are better!
There is some evidence to suggest organic tomato products are more lycopene-rich.
In one US study, organic ketchups contained three times more of the cancer-fighting chemical than non-organic brands.
The article says there is evidence that lycopene reduces the risks of certain cancers, heart disease and strokes by reducing inflammation in the arteries. And of course somebody has now produced a pill so you don’t even have to eat tomatoes!
Last week the Daily Telegraph ran an exclusive preview of trials carried out by Gardening Which which to find the best variety of tomato to grow in a hanging basket. Trials like this are interesting but in the end the best variety is the one you like and the one that will grow best where you live so experiment to find what is best for you and your garden.
If you are tempted to have a go then start with one of the popular varieties. For some years I used Tumbler and found it worked well. Great taste and a good yield.
The other good thing about hanging baskets is that you can take them into the greenhouse to keep production going into the autumn. One year we even managed to pick a couple of ripe tomatoes on Christmas day. Do not expect much in the way of flavour as the sun provides the sweetness.
The Telegraph article gives details on how to grow toms in a hanging basket but it is definitely NOT an organic approach. They suggest using water retaining gels and artificial fertiliser, neither of which are ‘organic’.
All this has given me an idea, resurect the self-watering hanging basket and try again this year using home made comfrey liquid as a fertiliser. It should be fun and might even give us some toms right outside the front door.