Dear Aunt Tomato – I’m Askeered!

The information I provide to you is editorial and helpful in nature and cannot be construed as perfect truth.  Some of the information I am providing is based on anecdotal evidence and personal experience.  The benefit claimed has not been evaluated by the USDA or your local extension service.  Your results may vary.

Although Thursday is usually my “Minimalist” post (a thought-provoking picture with minimal words), a question for Aunt Tomato will always trump a picture.

My nephew, Mark, writes:

Dear Aunt Tomato,
I picked my first tomatoes off my first tomato plant last night, but I’m wary to eat them because the tomato plant was planted in the only piece of dirt in my backyard (a crack at the edge of the paved apartment parking area) and I’m worried the dirt is contaminated and I’m going to end up eating contaminated tomatoes. What should I do? Make them into necklaces?  Give them all to my roommate? Or just eat them?

Here is my response:

Dear Mark,
Although you did not specifically ask about “lead contamination” I will assume this is your major area of concern because of your urban location.  Lead can be present in urban, suburban, and rural soils due to airborne industrial and auto emissions and lead paint scrapings.  A vacant lot may have housed a high-lead building.

These things are concerning.  Lead can stay in the soil for a long time.

The good news is that you practiced some soil-remediation when you planted your tomatoes; you added organic matter to the soil.  You also planted tomatoes instead of potatoes.  Fruit bearing plants are less likely to accumulate lead in their edible portions than root vegetables and leafy plants you might eat (like lettuce).

Based on this, I would wash your tomatoes and eat them.  I would give some to your roommate, too, because it’s good to share what we have with others.

If you think you might grow tomatoes and other things in this same location next year, the best thing to do would be to get a soil test.  Make sure the soil test includes a lead scan.  Your local extension service may be able to help, or there may be a soil testing service at a local university.

This article, published by the University of Maine Extension Service gives more information and suggestions.  I think you’ll be more confident eating your tomatoes after reading it.

By the way, good job!

Love,
Aunt Tomato

I wonder how my friend Bobby Knorr is doing with his tomatoes? 

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