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I say tomato, you say cherry… It’s Tu B’Shvat

  • Tomatoes
The Jewish National Fund of South Africa (JNF) will this coming week give South African Jewish scholars 6 000 packets of tomato seeds from Foods and Trees for Africa to celebrate Tu B’Shvat.
by BEV PRICE | Jan 17, 2019

Why tomatoes this Tu B’Shvat, you may ask.

Charmaine Hirshowitz, Agriculture Sector Manager at the Israel-South Africa Trade Office, says that Israeli tomatoes are commercially the most prolific in the Southern Hemisphere.

An Israeli company in South Africa has a triangular partnership with a South African agricultural company and an Israeli seed company, using hothouse and open-field cultivation.

Cherry tomatoes are an Israeli invention, she says. Apparently, the size of the surface area of these tomatoes is hugely advantageous for their ripening time, making them more commercially viable. Farmers love them because they grow upwards, use less space on trestles, are adaptable to drought conditions, and are disease resistant.

As far back as 2012 at the JNF-KKL World Marketing Conference in Israel, it was reported that cherry tomatoes would change the livelihoods of people in many countries. Research continues at the JNF-KKL agricultural R&D centre located in Har Hanegev.

Studies being done there have helped to develop different strains and growing methods suitable for diverse international soil, water, and climate conditions. Hirshowitz says that the many small business enterprises using cherry tomato “early-entrance-to-market” Israeli tomato seeds are enhancing the local economy.

The product manager of the South Africa seed company involved in the partnership is heading to Israel at the end of this month to visit various tomato growers and seed companies.

He says that a lot of the tomato varieties sold commercially in South Africa are from Israeli breeding programmes. They are called hybrids, and are non-GMO (genetically modified).

His company has worked for more than a decade with Israeli seed companies and breeders to ensure that it stays ahead of new developments in breeding.

So, some of these delicious tomatoes will now be growing in and around our community after the Tu B’Shvat special tree-planting ceremonies in South Africa.

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