Vegetable Seed Production
Family: Solanaceae

Tomato :: Pepper :: Eggplant :: Potato

Common Name: Tomato
Scientific Name: Solanum lycopersicum
Family Name: Solanaceae

Tomato introduction & history

The tomato is a warm season (frost intolerant), perennial that is grown as an annual in temperate regions. Solanum lycopersicum is self pollinated.

The tomato is of New World origin and was unknown to Europeans until samples were collected by early explorers in Mexico and returned to Europe. Wild species are found in the Andean region, Peru, and adjacent areas. The wild form is believed to have been taken to Mexico, where fairly advanced domestication occurred by native people in what is today Mexico. The wild cherry tomato, L. esculentum var. cerasiforme, is spontaneous through tropical and subtropical America and is probably the progenitor of the cultivated tomato.

There is early mention of the tomato being used as a food crop in Italy in 1554. Tomato was at first considered poisonous in the English speaking countries probably because of its relationship to nightshade (both are in the same family). Tomato leaves and immature fruit do contain the toxic alkaloid tomatine. The tomato was grown in the early American colonies as a curiosity (love apple) and not widely accepted as a food crop in this country until after 1800.

Tomato Seed Production and Identification page

Common Name: Pepper
Scientific Name: Capsicum spp.
Family Name: Solanaceae

Peppers are a warm season (frost sensitive) perennial that are grown commercially as annuals. There are many similarities to tomato. Like the tomato, the fruit of the pepper is a berry, but its structure is considerably different. When the fruit is very small it is very much like the tomato but as it grows, the outer wall or pericarp, grows much more rapidly than the placenta. This results in the formation of a large air-filled cavity in the fruit. In cross section near the apical end it is difficult to tell how many carpels there are in the fruit.

The genus is strictly of New World origin. Wild plants are found from southern United States to southern South America.
Peppers were domesticated and used as a food plant for many centuries. Their use was principally as a condiment. Peppers were identified from excavations to have existed about 7000 B.C.
Columbus was probably the first to take specimens to Europe. There, they were eventually adopted as food crops and quickly moved into usage through most of the world. The non-pungent types were more popular in Europe.
Historically pepper has been considered to have medicinal values. Years ago peppers were believed to be effective for curing dropsy, colic, toothache and cholera. Today pepper extracts are used as counter-irritants for rheumatism and as a constituent of some throat gargles and lozenges.

Pepper Seed Identification page

Common Name: Eggplant
Scientific Name: Solanum melongena
Family Name: Solanaceae

The eggplant is a warm season (frost intolerant) perennial that is grown as an annual and requires a longer growing season than its relatives tomato or pepper.
It is an old world crop believed to be native to India and has long been a cultivated crop in southern and South East Asia.
Some authorities claim that it was used as a food crop as early as the 5th century.
Eggplants were probably introduced into southern Europe during the Moorish invasion of Spain.
Eggplants were introduced to the Americas by early Spanish explorers, but until the 20th century, the plant was used in the U.S. more for ornamental purposes than for human consumption. Much like tomato, people believed the eggplant to be poisonous for many years before it became a popular because it is related to nightshade. My grandmother would soak eggplant in salt water before cooking to remove the "poison".

Eggplant Seed Identification page

Common Name: Potato
Scientific Name: Solanum tuberosum
Family Name: Solanaceae

Solanum tuberosum is a tetraploid (4N = 48) and does not grow true to type from seed so it is propagated vegetatively by the tubers. Each tuber contains several eyes or buds. Potato tubers exhibit apical dominance like other plant organs, so cutting tubers into pieces stimulates the eyes to sprout.

The potato is often called white potato or Irish potato to differentiate if from the sweet potato, which is a member of a different plant family and not closely related to Irish potato.
Plants are small bushes with pubescent stems that grow up to 1 meter long.
Flowers range in color from white to bluish, 1 to 1 1/4 inches across. Flowers are mostly perfect (bisexual) with 5-lobed calyx. A superior 2- celled ovary normally contains many ovules with one style and the stigma is simple or lobed. Fruits are infrequently produced and are 2- or 3-celled globular yellowish or green berries 3/4 inch or less in diameter.
Tubers form on the ends of underground stems called stolons when induced by the proper daylength. Commercially potatoes are grown as annuals in the United States.

The potato originated in the Andean region of South America, probably in Chile.
The potato has been cultivated by natives of South America for perhaps 2,000 years before the arrival of the Europeans. Hundreds of species still grow wild in South America.

Potato Seed Identification page