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Friday Favorite: The Smell of Tomatoes

July 15th, 2011

You don’t really think about it during the long dark winter and it’s still a distant memory while you’re seeding all your little tomato seedlings. When repotting or planting your tiny tomatoes it’s not very strong, a faint whiff of what it will be come high summer when the plants are growing in the heat of the sun. One day when you head out to the garden to tie up your tomatoes it hits you, that smell that is tomato foliage. An unmistakable smell it is, that of tomato foliage – it is much stronger and more pungent than the fresh fruit. There’s nothing quite like it really.

Some people love it and some hate it. I was firmly in the HATE IT camp my first year of growing tomatoes. Then I learned to LOVE IT. So much so that I decided to make it a Friday Favorite. I spent some time out tying up the tomatoes this week and was thinking about how much I love that smell.

What about you – are in the love it or hate it camp when it comes to the smell of tomato foliage?

31 Comments to “Friday Favorite: The Smell of Tomatoes”
  1. Sue Nugent on July 15, 2011 at 6:29 am

    It’s strange how many things have a scent of their own,that we had never noticed. Then one day you are walking through your flowers and plants and you smell something you have never smelled before,yet it was there all along, There are so many wonderful fragrances to discover in nature, if only we would slow down long enough to discover them.I know roses have a beautiful fragrance,but we see and pass them every day of the season, and then one day, their sweet fragrance hits you and you wonder why you had not took time to smell the sweet fragrance before. I just learned that the herb,Rosemary, has a wonderful smell. I was so surprised at it’s fragrance. I’d been too busy to notice.i guess that’s what the saying is all about.”Take time to smell the roses.”

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  2. Andrea on July 15, 2011 at 6:45 am

    Yes, there are smells that my family associate with summer.
    My husband loves smelling honeysuckle. We can walk outside and smell it wherever we go in June.
    My son loves strawberries and when we have the freezer jam in the winter, he smiles and says it smells like summer :)
    I love the smell of tomato plants! I love when they get their first true leaves and can smell tomatoes in February!!

    Reply to Andrea's comment

  3. KimH on July 15, 2011 at 6:52 am

    I love the smell of tomato plants.. Every day I reach my hand in and gently shake the bushes.. maybe to help pollinate or maybe just to get that yummy scent going. :D

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  4. Sherri on July 15, 2011 at 8:16 am

    I am not a huge fan of the smell, but I certainly put up with it knowing what is *hopefully* to come from the plants! I find that the juice from the leaves/stems makes me itchy :) I need to tie my plants this weekend – much tending to do as they are growing rapidly. We have had heaps and heaps of rain for WEEKS, and I’m very worried about blight, so I also plan to remove the lower branches and leaves to improve air circulation around the plants. I’m terrified of losing the crop to blight which is a VERY real possibility here…

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  5. Sande on July 15, 2011 at 8:39 am

    I did the same thing yesterday: spent an hour or so tying up vines, trimming, cutting out some of the lower leaves and opening the plants up to some better air flow. The smell is okay – the vines make my hands and arms itch. I always have to wash well with soap and water after working with the tomatoes, but I would do that anyways, right?
    Nice photos!

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  6. tj on July 15, 2011 at 8:48 am

    …Oh my goodness, LOVE it! I had thoughts the other evening when I was in the garden of taking tomato leaves at season’s end and drying them just so I can smell them come the dead of winter… Silly, huh? Yeah, I love everything about tomatoes. :o)

    …Have a wonderful weekend!


    Reply to tj's comment

    • Susy on July 15, 2011 at 9:08 am

      Bet you could steep some in vodka or witch hazel and make a face toner with it. I sometimes put a few tomato leaves in my batches of tomato sauce as it heightens the flavor (and no they’re not poisonous as thought). I got this idea from Paul Bertolli in Cooking by Hand

      Reply to Susy's comment

      • KimH on July 15, 2011 at 3:59 pm

        Very interesting! Thanks for the idea…

        to KimH's comment

  7. Daedre Craig on July 15, 2011 at 8:56 am

    I love the smell of the foliage, but I hate the yellow dust that gets EVERYWHERE when you work with them. Whenever I come inside from tying up the tomatoes, I have to change my clothes and wash halfway up my arms to remove all the tomato dust (It isn’t pollen, because tomato pollen is white and doesn’t really come out of the flower). This stuff stains pretty badly too. I have yellow stains on white painted surfaces in my bathroom and hand towels with permanent yellow spots!

    Reply to Daedre Craig's comment

    • Susy on July 15, 2011 at 9:06 am

      It’s like gold dust, they shine beautifully in the sunlight because of that yellow dust – interesting!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  8. Misti on July 15, 2011 at 9:08 am

    Oh, the smell of tomatoes needs to be a perfume! Or a candle!

    Reply to Misti's comment

  9. Kathy on July 15, 2011 at 9:09 am

    I LOVE it; it smells like summer to me!

    Reply to Kathy's comment

  10. Allison on July 15, 2011 at 9:16 am

    LOVE IT! I Rub my fingers on the leaves every time I pass the tomato plants :)

    Reply to Allison's comment

  11. Heather on July 15, 2011 at 10:04 am

    I love the smell. I used to get a terrible rash handling tomato plants when I was pregnant, but I’d put on long sleeves and go out and do it anyway to enjoy the smell. They smell like summer.

    Reply to Heather's comment

  12. Cate on July 15, 2011 at 10:11 am

    I absolutely adore the smell of tomato plants. It’s almost peppery, and reminds me so much of my childhood.

    Reply to Cate's comment

  13. Donna B. on July 15, 2011 at 10:30 am

    I am in the ♥LOVE♥ for this one! Hehe.
    Examined your system for staking the tomatoes too… looks interesting! I tied up my tomatoes this past weekend… after a week or so of being away and they shot from about 2ft to 4ft tall! I had some wood leftover from a back porch project – it’s good cedar so I just made a panel and attached some wire fencing to it… I hope it holds though! [I need something more like a hollow box… tomatoes get heavy!]
    Boyfriend didn’t like them when I first installed them, but now they’re not even visible thanks to the Tomatoes! hee hee.

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  14. shannon on July 15, 2011 at 10:49 am

    I am kind of in the middle… I don’t hate it but I am not in love with the smell… I think it is growing on me :)

    Reply to shannon's comment

  15. Barefeet In The Kitchen on July 15, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    The smell is growing on me. I love harvesting my tomatoes and it’s so much fun that the smell is associated with the lovely tomatoes now.

    Reply to Barefeet In The Kitchen's comment

  16. Michelle @ give a girl a fig on July 15, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    That is so funny….I used to be in the HATE IT category, too. Now…I am really starting to love it…that smell makes a statement…a promise…of fresh, organic tomatoes right from my own garden. What’s not to love?

    Reply to Michelle @ give a girl a fig's comment

  17. Meighan on July 15, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    Absolutely love it!

    Reply to Meighan's comment

  18. Mistresseve on July 15, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    Its one of my favorite smells of summer; suntan lotion & sunscreen, car wax, fresh cut grass, bbq grills, and tomato plants. Heavenly!

    Reply to Mistresseve's comment

  19. Grace on July 15, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    I’m in the love-it camp. Also love the smell of garlic in the garden . . . and basil . . and . . .

    Reply to Grace's comment

  20. kristin @ going country on July 15, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    There are people that hate it? Really? I never thought that could be possible.

    My poor tomatoes need some serious TLC after a week of neglect while we were gone. They’re flopping all over the place. I just pulled up the garlic and shallots and harvested the overly large green beans. Tomatoes are next. And chard. And weeding the carrots and beets that got swallowed up. And . . . well. You know how it is when you come back from vacation.

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  21. Wendy on July 15, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    LOVE it! Nothing says summer, like the scent of tomatoes!

    Reply to Wendy's comment

  22. Beegirl on July 15, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    My aunt sent me a tomato vine scented candle once. We burned it all winter and dreamed of the garden. Guess that puts me in the LOVE category..!

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  23. MAYBELLINE on July 15, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    HATE IT!
    Decades ago, as kids, we would have to go out and glean tomato fields while the adults ate the tomatoes like apples. I cannot stand the smell of the foliage. Blerg.

    Reply to MAYBELLINE's comment

  24. melissa on July 15, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    I LOVE it. I love how the spiciness of it clings to my hands after I’ve been picking.

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  25. Heather on July 15, 2011 at 10:51 pm

    I’m like you, I didn’t like it at all the first year or so that I had my first garden, but now, it smells like summer and the promise of garden fresh tomatoes!

    Reply to Heather's comment

  26. whit on July 16, 2011 at 1:12 am

    I don’t mind the smell of tomatoes, but what leaves me completely enamoured with them is that chartuese-y (sp?) colour the water is when you wash your hands after touching toms. What is that from? It’s surprising and awesome…all at the same time.

    Reply to whit's comment

  27. Victoria on July 16, 2011 at 10:25 am

    Love the scent of tomatoes. During my canning weekend, I plan on saving and drying out the tomato skins and using the dried skins just like a dried herb during our non-tomato months.

    Reply to Victoria's comment

  28. Kathi on July 16, 2011 at 9:26 pm

    LOVE I even bought a hand wash from Sur La Table once that was scented of tomato foliage, I think it has a great astringent smell.

    Reply to Kathi's comment


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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