Tomatoes were introduced in Europe in the 16th century; they were called "love apples" and grown as shrubs. The Spanish and Italians ate them, but northern Europeans believed they were poisonous and grew them only as ornamental plants.
Seeds should be started indoors four to six weeks before the last frost, sown in flats 1/4 inch deep and 1 inch apart. Germination takes seven to 14 days. When the first true leaves appear, transplant to 4-inch pots. Plants should be set outdoors one week after the last frost, in soil amended with well-rotted manure or compost. Plant every 24 inches in rows 30 inches apart.
To encourage rooting and strong plants, set seedlings deeply, leaving only the top four sets of leaves exposed. Pinch off the first flowers to allow young plants to establish themselves. Pinch off suckers that grow in the notches between main and horizontal stems.
Tomatoes benefit from support. Cage or stake plants to lift fruit off the ground. Install supports at transplant time or soon after to avoid root damage later. Mulch to retain moisture and keep weeds at bay. Pick fruits when fully colored, firm and glossy.
Yellow Tomato Salad with Lemon Grass
1/2 cup vegetable oil
8 stalks of lemon grass (available at Asian markets and some specialty produce markets), the outer leaves discarded, ends trimmed and 5 inches of the lower stalks minced
4 shallots, minced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
Cayenne to taste
6 medium yellow tomatoes (about 3 pounds), sliced crosswise
Whole pear and currant tomatoes (available at specialty produce markets), and cherry tomatoes for garnish
Can be prepared in 45 minutes or less but requires additional unattended time.
In a small bowl whisk together the oil, lemon grass, shallots, lemon juice, garlic, zest, coriander, cayenne and salt to taste.
Preserve tomatoes for two hours in mixture and then divide the tomato slices among six salad plates.
Spoon the dressing over them, and let the salad stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.
Garnish each serving with some of the whole tomatoes.