The weird science of horticulture
Story by Rick Snyder, Ph.D.
Every science has its anomalies, its weirdness. It is not at all difficult to find example of some of these in horticulture. Today we’ll talk about some of the more recent standouts you may have seen in the news.
Most of us grow beefsteak tomatoes, generally weighing ½ pound or more. Some folks like to grow cherry tomatoes, around ¾-1 ounce. Then there are grape tomatoes, just a little smaller than the cherries.
Well, there’s a new smallest tomato in town: currant tomatoes (Solanum pimpinellifolium), marketed as the world’s smallest tomatoes. These weigh in around ¼ of an ounce – smaller than cherry tomatoes and less than 1 centimeter in diameter!
Sometimes these are called spoon tomatoes because you can fit about a dozen of them on a spoon. They grow on indeterminate plants (like cherry tomatoes) that produce piles of these pea-sized tomatoes in about 65 days.
First of all, why would you even want one? One reason is that many people end up cutting into their hands while removing the pit, sometimes requiring a trip to the emergency room. This can lead to serious injuries to nerves and tendons, requiring reconstructive surgery by specialists. In England, this is referred to as “avocado hand,” and incidents of this type of injury are on the rise as avocado consumption increases.
Now we have what is known as the cocktail avocado. These are the result of unpollinated blossoms. With no pollination, there is no seed production.
So far, they are only produced in Spain. Nearly all of them go to high-end restaurant chefs to serve to high-paying clientele.
One peculiarity is that the shape is more like a small fat cucumber than a traditional avocado. But that’s okay – there’s no pit!
Buddha’s Hand Citrus
Although this may look more like a toy than real fruit, it is just one of the many citrus varieties in the world.
Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis is also called the fingered citron because it branches into several “fingers.” There are many variations – from closed fingers to those in which they are spread apart.
It is edible, but is more widely used as a perfume, in candies, in traditional medicines, or in alcoholic beverages.
Since it is frost sensitive, it would not do well growing outside in Mississippi. It does grow well along the coast of southern California.
Photo ©Michal Kowalski/shutterstock.com.