The scent of tomato and taste of chilli
The tomato harvest is almost over, and the chillies are getting their last sun. They are two delicious plants and among the most popular in the greenhouse. They are also very healthy plants.
The tomato stems from South America and came to Europe in 1550. It is a part of the nightshade family, which commonly consists of poisonous plants.
What makes self-grown tomatoes a delicacy is the scents that come when harvesting them, it stimulates the sense experience. The scent of freshly harvested tomatoes comes from the sepals around the stalk. The fruit has almost no scent as the tomato skin has no pits. With no pits in the skin, the scents can’t get out.
A tomato has more than 400 different flavour additives which together create the taste.
Photo: Grøn Kommunikation
It is a bit overwhelming to think that 400 different additives create one taste and one scent so that you are not able to separate one scent from another. Crucial for the taste is the content of salts, acids and sugar. The more sugar and acid there are in the tomato, the more taste.
The amount of sunlight is also crucial. The more light the tomato gets, the better it will taste. In other words, you should not plant too close or whitewash the windows when the sun is shining. Greenhouse plants can never get too much light, but they can get too much heat and then you need to air out. You can also use a shade net to provide shade when necessary.
Hot but not around the placenta
The strong chilli is also interesting. 80% – 90% of the power in a chilli comes from the two substances Capsaicin and Dihydrocapsaicin. Capsaicinoids bind to the nerve endings in the mouth, which is what’s painful, for some more than others. The different Capsaicinoids have different abilities to bind in the mouth or throat. That is why they burn in different places.
Chilli is strong, but if you avoid the pulp around the placenta the taste will be softer.
Photo: Grøn Kommunikation
The power of the chilli depends on its maturity and which part of the fruit you use. The pulp is its strongest by the stalk and mildest in the end. With that knowledge, you can adjust the use according to your guests. Some people avoid chilli completely, which is the same since you can serve it in a milder addition. The strongest part of the chilli is in the placenta and chilli wall. It is the white/yellow inside of a chilli. The easiest way to see the placenta and chilli wall is to cut the chili in two. Only 5% of the power is in the seeds.
Om Lars Lund
Danish horticulturist and journalist
Lars Lund has for many years engaged in the garden and greenhouse. Lars has published many books about greenhouses, and he has participated in many Danish horticultural TV shows. He is a walking garden encyclopaedia, and he has answers for most basic cultivation questions – also the more ambitious ones.