Tree Tomatoes

The following question was sent to the P&PDL diagnosticians here at Purdue University:

Question: I read about a tree tomato in an advertisement. It said the stems grow up to 8 feet tall and do not need to be staked or caged and the plants yield up to 60 pounds per plant. The variety name was listed as "Giant Tree ". Is this for real?

Answer: If this variety is the same as what previously has been marketed as a "tree tomato," then it is botanically known as Cyphomandra betacea, a very different species from garden tomatoes. This tree tomato is a tropical, semi-woody shrub that reaches up to 10 feet, but the fruit is more tart and jelly-like than our garden tomato. 

If you read the ad closely, the seller is most likely sending out a seed that is planted in a pot, at about $3.50 each (plus shipping). That is one expensive plant to be!

It's always wise to read all the fine print in these ads. And keep in mind the old saying, "if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!"

-B. Rosie Lerner, Purdue Extension Consumer Horticulture Specialist