Tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum) are a fruit vegetable of the Solanaceae family. Tomatoes are widely cultivated and consumed in Northern Nigeria. With an average vegetative cycle of 110-160 days, they are one of the short-term fruiting vegetables. Tomato varieties are numerous around the globe, ranging from a difference in size, shape, color, taste, ecological adaptability, and disease and pest resistance. From the smallest of Tomberries to the biggest of Big Zac, tomatoes are also the most common greenhouse vegetables.
Facts About Tomatoes
Benefits of Tomatoes
Tomatoes are commonly known to be a source of lycopene, an antioxidant that is linked to reducing heart diseases and cancer. Lycopene has also been proven to regulate blood pressure. They are also a good source of Vitamin A, C, K1, B9, and potassium. They are a good source of fiber and low in fat. According to some scientific studies, Tomatoes can help prevent cancer. Tomatoes also improve skin and hair health. They may also be useful for pregnant women.
Uses of Tomato
Tomatoes are mostly used in making soups and sauces, included in salads, burgers, etc. In Nigeria, they are the major ingredients of jollof rice. Because of this reason, over a thousand metric tons of tomatoes are consumed every Saturday.
Irrespective of the type and variety of tomatoes, the following are general conditions for growing them.
Even though they can be grown in any season, tomatoes are best grown in the dry season because it requires an abundant amount of sunlight to ripen the fruits, and tomato leaves become susceptible to diseases when constantly damp.
Tomatoes can grow in any type of soil except heavy clay soil but will grow best in loamy and sandy-loamy soil.
Tomato seeds are to be sown in the nursery for 3-4 weeks in an ambient environment, away from harsh sunlight and heavy rain. Sow the seeds 1 cm deep in rich, well-drained soil and cover with fine sand. Water the nursery once or twice daily, depending on the temperature. The seeds are expected to germinate within a week.
After germination, water plants daily without dumping the leaves, protect the young plants, and gradually expose to sunlight for hardening. When the young plants are up to 5cm in height, If the nursery is made in beds and not seed trays, thin them out to a spacing of 10cm apart.
When the plants are about 15cm in height or 3-4 weeks in nursery, transplant them to growing beds with a spacing of 50cm/80cm (50cm between plants and 80cm between lines). Endeavor to transplant the seedlings profoundly in the growing bed without damaging the root structure. It is advisable to transplant the seedlings in the evening to give them up to 12 hours of recovery time before exposure to sunlight.
Water the newly transplanted seedlings 2-3 times daily, depending on the temperature, until they’re well standing. This should last around a week.
Mulch and water the plants frequently to maintain the humidity of the soil. Also, weed around the plants frequently. When the plants attain a height of 30-40cm, stake individual plants. This helps the plants bear the weight, especially during fruit-bearing.
Since tomato is a fruit-bearing plant, enrich the soil with a phosphorus-rich organic or inorganic fertilizer to help with the formation of fruits and with increased resistance to diseases. It is also advisable to prune the plants consistently to remove suckers and allow the plant to focus on fruiting.
The pest and diseases of tomatoes include Aphids Leafminer, Spider mites, Whitefly, Late blight, Early blight, and Mosaic virus.
Tip: Do not plant tomatoes in close proximity with cucumbers, cassava, or potatoes because they all susceptible to the mosaic virus. This can be combatted by spraying organic or inorganic pesticides, fungicides, or by handpicking of pests.
Depending on the variety, tomatoes are usually ready to be harvested within 3 months after transplanting. Harvest fruits, that are fully ripe or almost ripe, carefully without piercing or blemishing them. Do not harvest fruits when they’re damp, as it will not make them conserve well.
Harvest tomatoes should not be stacked in baskets as this damages the fruits. Partially ripened ones can be left to ripen in an airy, obscured place without the fruits touching each other. Ripened tomatoes can be preserved whole in an ash-filled box without the fruits touching each other.
Apart from making it into soup, sauce, burgers, and salads, they can be processed into tomato juice, tomato paste, salsa, sundried tomato, tomato powder, canned tomatoes, etc.
Tomato, like every other vegetable, is plagued with spoilage. The postharvest loss of tomatoes in Nigeria rivals others. This makes the price of tomatoes fall and hike at sharp intervals. Processing tomatoes increases shelf life and helps stabilize the price across seasons. One of the best ways is to make tomato powder.
States Tomatoes are Predominantly Grown In Northern Nigeria
Tomatoes are predominantly grown in Northern Nigerian states of Jigawa, Plateau, Benue, Kaduna, Gombe, Niger, Kebbi, Zamfara, and Kano.
A basket of tomatoes can be sold ranging from N500 to N45,000 depending on the season and other factors.
Major Tomato Markets in Northern Nigeria
|KADUNA||Kasuwan Sabon Gari, Kasuwan Dan Magaji, Kasuwan Samaru, Kasuwan Giwa.|
|KANO||Kasuwan Yan kaba, Kasuwan Sabon gari, kasuwan Wanbai, Kasuwan Wudil, Kasuwan Danbatta.|
|NIGER||Sabon Kasuwa, Kasuwan Gwari|
|PLATEAU||Farin Gada, Building Material|
|GOMBE||Ashaka Gari, Juggol Barkono, Kodom, Malam Sidi, Kurugu, Mana Washi, and Kasuwan Dadin kowa|
|JIGAWA||Kasuwan Gujungu, Kasuwan Mai gatari, Kasuwan Sara, kasuwan Hadejia, Kasuwan Kafin hausa Kasuwan Shuwarin.|