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Weekly planter: A tomato for summer gardens

The maximum size of the Everglades tomato is about a half-inch.
The maximum size of the Everglades tomato is about a half-inch. Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

As a rule, tomatoes don’t like Miami summers. They need cooler nights to set fruit than the South Florida subtropics provide. But this rule, like most, has an exception: the Everglades tomato, which seems to be oblivious to the miseries of hot nights and wet days.

The Everglades tomato grows in clusters on the plant and is small, the size of a dime or a grape. You won’t get anything you can slice and place atop your hamburger with the Everglades tomato, Solanum pimpinellifolium, a variety of the currant tomato. But much like a cherry or grape tomato, it’s a good one to eat freshly plucked from the garden or in salads. Plus you have the benefit of a flavor-packed tomato.

The provenance of the Everglades tomato is uncertain — some claim it’s native to South Florida, others say it came here from somewhere else. As its name suggests, it’s been spotted growing in the ’Glades. Whatever the case, it is comfortable in our climate and can produce fruit year-round.

The plant is leggy and sprawling, so think about training it along a trellis or fence rather than a tomato cage (although a tomato cage will work). It likes full sun. This tomato reseeds itself, although some people recommend stepping on a few and squishing them into the soil to ensure the seeds sprout.

You can buy seeds online (google “Everglades tomato”). Also, watch for plant sales by garden clubs and at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.

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