by Jennifer Poindexter
There are many varieties of tomatoes. When you grow one variety, you might assume you can grow them all. However, there might be one variety you aren’t familiar with. Have you heard of, or tried, a pineapple tomato?
This is a low-acid tomato which packs a sweeter taste. It’s also a vibrant tomato boasting unique colors on the inside and outside of its fruit. If you’re interested in growing this type of tomato, you’re in the right spot. I’m going to walk you through all you must know to grow healthy pineapple tomatoes.
Here’s how you can plant, care for, protect, and harvest a pineapple tomato in your home garden.
Growing Conditions for the Pineapple Tomato Plant
Pineapple tomatoes have similar growing conditions to other varieties of tomatoes. This plant is an annual which can grow in planting zones two through twelve.
They prefer warmer conditions and should be planted when the temperatures are 70-degrees Fahrenheit or warmer.
Once you know the weather is warm enough to plant, you must ensure your growing area will support the tomato sufficiently.
Pineapple tomatoes need well-draining soil. They won’t thrive if grown in consistently wet conditions. The soil should also be nutrient dense as these tomatoes are heavy feeders.
When the soil is correct, you must also consider the lighting. Tomatoes love sunlight. Therefore, pineapple tomatoes should be planted where they receive full sunlight. This equates to approximately six hours of sunlight per day or more.
Provide the right soil, sunlight, and temperatures to produce healthy and happy tomato plants in your garden.
How to Plant a Pineapple Tomato
Growing pineapple tomatoes is similar to starting any plant from seed. Start the seeds two months indoors, before the final frost date.
Place two seeds in each cell of a grow tray. This is to ensure if one seed doesn’t germinate, you have a backup.
Plant the seeds ¼ inch deep in the soil within the grow tray. Keep the seeds around 75-degrees Fahrenheit and the soil moist.
Mist the soil with a spray bottle to keep it consistently damp without overwhelming your growing set-up.
It’s also a good idea to wrap your growing tray in plastic wrap. This creates a greenhouse setting for your plants and will help retain moisture. Provide adequate lighting as well.
You should expect the seeds to germinate in one to two weeks.
When all threat of frost is over, and the soil temperature is at least 70-degrees Fahrenheit, you can prepare to move your seedlings outdoors.
The seedlings should have two sets of leaves and be hardened off for a week before transplanting outside.
You can plant pineapple tomatoes in containers, in raised beds, or in a typical inground garden plot. If planting in a container, you should only place one tomato plant per planter.
If planting pineapple tomatoes in a bed, leave two feet of space between each plant to ensure they have an adequate amount of growing room.
During transplant, dig a hole deep enough to support the plant’s root system. Place the plant in the designated hole, cover the hole with soil, and press firmly around the base of the tomato to keep air from reaching the roots.
Be sure to avoid planting pineapple tomatoes near cabbages or other tomato varieties as they attract some of the same pests. However, they can be planted near carrots and onions.
Now that your tomatoes are in their permanent growing location, it’s time to learn how to properly care for these plants.
Caring for a Pineapple Tomato Plant
When growing pineapple tomatoes, there are some basic things you must do to ensure your plants grow to be as healthy as possible.
The first thing to do is mulch around the base of the plant. By doing this it helps to retain moisture and suppress weeds growing around your tomatoes.
Next, you should water your tomato plants deeply. This means you apply water for longer periods of time but for fewer days of the week.
This allows for the roots to receive an adequate amount of water during the initial application. However, as the days progress with no water, the roots will dig deeper into the soil to retrieve water from the ground around it.
In turn, this produces healthier and stronger plants. Another thing you must do to care for these plants properly is to fertilize them one time per month.
As stated earlier, pineapple tomatoes are heavy feeders. By providing the nutrients they need, you’re encouraging them to thrive under your care. Be sure to use a balanced fertilizer.
This will encourage lush plants and fruit. If the nutrients become imbalanced, you could end up with gorgeous foliage but no fruit.
The final step in caring for pineapple tomatoes is to cage them. This is an indeterminate variety of tomato.
Therefore, you won’t know how tall the plants will become. By staking or caging the tomatoes, you can provide support to keep the plants from breaking.
You may also consider pruning the tomatoes. Once they reach the top of your cage or stake, cut any foliage above a selected group of fruit.
Ensure you leave enough foliage to provide shade for the remaining fruit. Since the plant is indeterminate, it should grow back fuller and healthier. Keep in mind, once you start pruning, it will be an on-going process.
These are the necessities a pineapple tomato has. Be mindful of these plants, and they should produce well in your care.
Pests and Diseases That Impact Pineapple Tomatoes
Unfortunately, pineapple tomatoes have a variety of enemies in most garden spaces. The diseases which impact this plant the most are typically fungal issues.
These tomatoes are susceptible to root rot and mold. If you think your plant has root rot, you should dig the entire root system up.
By examining the roots, you should see whether they’re, in fact, rotting or not. If they are, you need to pick a new growing location. This occurs in areas where the soil doesn’t drain properly. Ensure the new location has well-draining soil.
If you see signs of mold, remove any impacted parts of the plant. You should reduce the amount of water being supplied and increase the airflow around each plant as well.
The other disease which impacts pineapple tomatoes is damping off. This most frequently impacts seedlings.
Once the seedlings have contracted this fungal disease, there is no way to save them. Avoid this disease by starting seeds in well-draining soil.
Avoid overwatering by misting the plants with a spray bottle. You can also sprinkle the soil with cinnamon. It has natural anti-fungal properties which might help keep the disease at bay.
Also, keep the seeds near a light source that’s close enough to warm the soil. If you have cold, saturated soil, you’re providing proper growing conditions for fungal issues.
Now that you know which diseases can impact your tomato plants, it’s time to discuss which pests can wreak havoc, too.
The most common pests to impact pineapple tomatoes are nematodes and cutworms. Nematodes live in the soil of your garden. You can treat them with an insecticide or naturally drive them out of your garden by planting marigolds around your tomato plants.
Cutworms do exactly as their name suggests. They cut through the stems of your plants. If you see signs of this around your tomatoes, treat them with an insecticide as well.
Stay alert to these threats by walking through your garden each evening or morning. This is the time when pests are most active, and you should be able to catch issues before they do severe damage to your crops.
How to Harvest a Pineapple Tomato
You have made it through the most difficult parts of gardening. This includes growing, caring for, and protecting your plants.
Now, you get to enjoy the fun part! Harvesting is a time when you receive the benefits of your hard work.
Pineapple tomatoes will make you wait to reach this point, though. This is a late season variety of tomato.
Therefore, it could take three or more months to receive fruit from these plants. You’ll know the fruit is ready when the tomatoes reach their proper color.
Typically, pineapple tomatoes are yellow or red with orange stripes. They are a large beefsteak variety and could weigh up to two pounds.
Along with producing a sweet flavor, the insides of these tomatoes come in an array of colors which range from red, orange, pink, or yellow. It’s quite a unique tomato.
When the size and colors match what I’ve described here, it’s time to cut the tomatoes from the vine. It’s best to use scissors to snip the stem away from the plant as this avoids causing damage.
Once harvested, you can store the tomatoes at room temperature or in your refrigerator. If stored in the refrigerator, be sure to set the tomatoes on the counter for a few hours prior to use.
This will allow the juices to begin moving through the tomato again and produce the fruity flavor most people love about this variety.
When done with the tomatoes, you can slice the extras open and remove the seeds. Dry the seeds on a paper towel in the sun or in a dehydrator. This will give you more seeds to plant for next year’s garden.
These are my tips for harvesting and saving seeds for a pineapple tomato. If you love these tomatoes, storing seeds is an excellent way to keep the harvest going from year to year.
Hopefully, these tips will inspire you and help you through many of the challenges gardeners face when growing this variety of tomato.