Wild Tomatoes Are Not Poisonous!
The most common misconception about wild tomatoes is that they are poisonous. They aren’t poisonous at all. The only time you might want to avoid eating them is if you have a sensitive stomach or something similar. If you eat too many of these plants, though, it could cause nausea and vomiting, which would make your day even worse than it already was.
So don’t worry about getting sick from eating wild tomatoes!
There are two types of wild tomato varieties: those that grow in the wild and those cultivated in greenhouses. There are several different kinds of wild tomatoes, but there isn’t much difference between them other than their color. Most of them are red, yellow, orange or purple. Some have small white spots on top; others don’t.
All of them taste good when eaten raw or cooked (or both).
How Do You Grow Wild Tomatoes?
You can grow wild tomatoes in containers, but I prefer to grow them outdoors because they tend to be bigger and better tasting. I’m not sure why, but I think it’s just me. The best way to get started with growing wild tomatoes is probably to buy some seedlings off of Amazon or Ebay. These will usually come in a plastic baggie so you’ll know exactly how big they are before buying them. (Always choose the bigger ones! They grow larger than the small ones!)
If you can’t find any seedlings online, then you can always buy some seeds and grow them yourself. Put some soil in a container (about a quarter inch deep), plant the seeds (about an inch apart) and water them. The seeds should start sprouting in about two or three weeks. You can transplant the seedlings in soil once they are at least two inches tall, but make sure that you keep the soil moist.
Don’t put them in the sun or any other sources of extreme heat! The leaves might burn, which isn’t good for the plant’s health.
It’s also a good idea to grow a few extra just in case some of them die. They grow better if they’re planted with a few other plants. If you have extra space in your yard, you should put them in the ground instead of in a container. Keep the soil moist and they should grow fine.
Heck, you could even grow them indoors if you have enough lights! (The lights will need to be at least 4 feet above the plants. This keeps them from burning, which I mentioned earlier.)
You can use wild tomato plants for a variety of things. You can either eat them or dry them out and store them for later. You can eat them fresh and you can cook with them (add them to sauces or soups). Some people like to make wild tomato jam.
You might as well experiment to see what you like the best!
When To Pick Wild Tomatoes
Just like with most plants, it is best to pick the wild tomatoes either right before you plan on using them or immediately after. If you wait too long, they will rot and become useless for your purposes. They taste best right when they are ripe, too. If you are looking to keep them for later, you can either freeze or dry them.
Freezing works pretty well, but I prefer to dry them out instead.
You will want to harvest the whole plant. Cut the stems at the base and then hang them upside down somewhere where there is plenty of air flow (but not in direct sunlight). This process takes a few weeks, but it’s worth it if you want to store them for later use.
What Does A Wild Tomato Taste Like?
A wild tomato tastes just like a regular store-bought tomato, only much better in my opinion. (I haven’t tried every single type of store-bought tomato, but I imagine they all taste about the same.) They are very juicy and a little tart.
Where Can You Find Wild Tomatoes?
There are a few places where you can find wild tomatoes. One of the most popular places is your own backyard. If you live in an area that has long, hot summers, then you probably have some growing right in your own yard. They like to pop up in the most random places, too.
If you don’t have any in your yard, then you can try your neighborhood. Lots of times, people plant them along sidewalks and roadsides. You might have more luck asking your neighbors if you aren’t allowed in your own backyard.
You might also try going on a hike. Again, long, hot summers are best for wild tomato growth, so the more mountainous areas will probably be your best bet. The mountains are pretty common in most parts of North America, so this might be a good idea.
One of the best places that I have found is in abandoned backwoods fields. There are all kinds of random plants growing everywhere in these fields. It seems like nobody cares enough to clear them all out or even plant something new.
When you are out searching, remember to be safe and watch out for animals. You probably won’t have to go too far out of your way to find what you’re looking for, but you never know…
You can also buy wild tomato seeds if you don’t have time to look. They aren’t too expensive and they typically grow quite a few plants, so it works out well.
How To Pick And Store Wild Tomatoes
Picking wild tomatoes is very easy, you simply pluck them off the vine. The key is making sure that you get all of them before they fall to the ground and rot. This can be a tedious process, but it’s worth it if you plan on using them right away.
Storing wild tomatoes can be done in a few different ways. One of the easier ways is to put them in a container of water in your fridge. They will slowly release their own water into the container, so you will have tomato water after a few days. You can then drain this and use it as you would normal water (for watering plants, etc).
The downside to this method is you have to keep changing out the water every few days and your fridge will eventually smell like tomatoes.
My preferred method is to slice the tomatoes and lay them in a single layer on a paper plate. I then put the paper plate in the microwave and zap it for around 5 minutes. This kills any bacteria and dries out the tomatoes so they won’t go bad as quickly. You then can store the dried tomatoes for as long as you want.
Make sure you keep them in an airtight container though, otherwise they will get moldy.
Using Wild Tomatoes
There are a lot of different ways you can go about using wild tomatoes. The simplest way is to just eat them right off the vine. This is the best way to really taste the full flavor of the tomato, and it’s very refreshing on a hot day. Just make sure you wipe all the grass and dirt off first so you don’t get dirt in your mouth!
If you want to get a little fancier, you can make all sorts of dishes. My favorite is a simple caprese salad (layer tomatoes, mozzerella cheese, and basil on a plate and drizzle with olive oil). You can also slice them up and put them on a sandwich or just cook them however you would cook normal tomatoes.
The smaller varieties of wild tomatoes can even be used in vodka! Just slice them up, put them in a jar, cover them in twice as much vodka, and wait a month. Then you’ll have a rich, ruby red vodka that tastes strongly of tomatoes.
As you can see, there are plenty of different ways to use wild tomatoes! Just remember to store the rest of your harvest properly so you can use it later on.
Continued At Your Own Risk…
Sources & references used in this article:
Granule‐bound starch synthase (GBSSI) gene phylogeny of wild tomatoes (Solanum L. section Lycopersicon [Mill.] Wettst. subsection Lycopersicon) by IE Peralta, DM Spooner – American Journal of botany, 2001 – Wiley Online Library
The taxonomy of tomatoes: a revision of wild tomatoes (Solanum L. section Lycopersicon (Mill.) Wettst.) and their outgroup relatives (Solanum sections Juglandifolium … by I Peralta, S Knapp, D Spooner – Systematic Botany Monographs, 2007 – ars.usda.gov
Sequence evolution and expression regulation of stress-responsive genes in natural populations of wild tomato by I Fischer, KA Steige, W Stephan, M Mboup – PLoS One, 2013 – journals.plos.org
Native environment modulates leaf size and response to simulated foliar shade across wild tomato species by DH Chitwood, LR Headland, DL Filiault, R Kumar… – PLoS …, 2012 – journals.plos.org
Marker-assisted transfer of acylsugar-mediated pest resistance from the wild tomato, Lycopersicon pennellii, to the cultivated tomato, Lycopersicon esculentum by DM Lawson, CF Lunde, MA Mutschler – Molecular Breeding, 1997 – Springer
Production and quantification of methyl ketones in wild tomato accessions by GF Antonious – Journal of Environmental Science and Health, Part …, 2001 – Taylor & Francis
Wild tomato leaf extracts for spider mite and cowpea aphid control by GF Antonious, K Kamminga… – Journal of Environmental …, 2014 – Taylor & Francis