What Are Uses for Tomato Plants?

Full-bodied spaghetti sauce with garlic, red wine and sausage added; tomato salad with fresh basil leaves and slices of creamy mozzarella; pizza; ketchup and chili are all examples of the wonders tomatoes provide. But, believe it or not, there are actually other uses for tomato plants beyond the juicy, delicious tomatoes themselves.

Tomatoes for Eating

Most people, of course, grow tomatoes for the fruit itself. Whether it's for the healthy heart or prostate benefits that some say are associated with the antioxidant lycopene found in tomatoes or whether it's simply the versatility and taste, tomatoes are one of the most popular foods. Tomatoes are eaten raw in salads; used in cooking soups, stews and baked dishes; roasted, fried and pickled to eat on their own; and manufactured into juices, pastes, sauces, salsas and ketchup.

Seeds for Propagating

Many people returned to eating and producing older tomato varieties in the 1980s for their superior taste and because they were not hybrid forms or genetically modified in any way, according to TomatoFest.com. As a result of the renewed interest in older varieties, seed companies began offering heirloom tomato seeds and home growers began to save seeds from their tomato plants. Growing heirloom tomato plants is now a big business for many seed companies--big and small--and home growers use their plants for obtaining seeds as well. In 2008 for instance, Tim Stark, a farmer in Pennsylvania and author of "Heirloom: Notes from an Accidental Farmer," trucked 100 varieties of heirloom tomatoes into Manhattan to sell to restaurants, states NPR.org.

Leaves for Cooking

The tomato plant belongs to the notorious nightshade family, whose members also include potatoes and eggplant. These foods are high in toxic alkaloids and have been considered poisonous, according to NYTimes.com. But as noted food writer, Harold McGee points out in his 2009 New York Times article, "Accused, Yes, but Probably Not a Killer," there is no definitive evidence of this poisonous effect and that, on the contrary, there are studies that tout the benefits of tomato leaves in inhibiting cancer cells and stimulating the immune system. McGee has branched out beyond his friend Paul Bertolli's tomato leaf-flavored pasta sauce and has enjoyed, with no ill effects, tomato leaves in a fish sauce, as a garnish, in pesto and fried with a bit of salt, according to NYTimes.com.

Tomatoes for Throwing

Rotten tomatoes have a very sour smell and being hit by one would be an unpleasant experience to say the least. Michelle Fabio, author of the website Causal Tomato, points out that although people say that Shakespearean actors were frequently pelted with rotten tomatoes, it wasn't actually the case, because tomatoes were not even available back then. Fabio does note however, that the Dutch Socialist party has taken the tomato as its logo in an attempt to institutionalize tomato throwing.

Keywords: tomato plant uses, using tomato leaves, tomato seeds

About this Author

A freelance writer with an extensive career in education, Susan Lundman taught writing and communication at the Military Academy at West Point, at military bases overseas and at community colleges in the United States. Working in a non-profit agency for 20 years, she wrote grant requests, promotional material, and operating guides. Lundman's expertise includes backpacking, dance, gardening and healthy living.