Sandy’s Garden ... Your Tomatoes To An Asprin

Sandy Simpson
Sandy Simpson

I start my day with a soluble aspirin dissolved in a small glass of warm water.

It’s good for me, I am reliably informed by my medical advisers, and I am not allergic to salicylic acid, the active ingredient in aspirin. Apparently, a small dose of aspirin … and ‘small’ in this context means 75mg … reduces the risk of blood clots forming, which is a risk faced by people who, like myself, have suffered a heart attack. What happens, I read on the internet, is that we all have blood cells called a platelets, whose role is to stick together when there is a break in any of our blood vessels and staunch the resultant leak, as when we get a cut or a graze. The platelets cause a clot to form which stops the bleeding. However, these helpful platelets can stick together inside the blood vessels of people who have experienced a heart attack or a stroke, causing an internal clot which may stop blood passing to the heart or to the brain, with serious … possibly fatal … consequences. Of course, the aspirin which inhibits the formation of blood clots where I do not want them also makes my blood slower to clot when I cut myself: but that’s a small price to pay for the overall benefit I get from my daily aspirin.

Now, what has this directly to do with tomato plants? Well, the honest answer is, “Not a lot!” But, more than ten years ago, scientists at the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research (BTI) at Cornell University at Ithaca in New York State discovered that the self-same salicylic acid which I ingest in my daily dose of aspirin is produced at elevated levels by many plants, including tomatoes, in response to any attack by microbial pathogens; and pathogens are infectious microbes, such as bacteria or viruses, which are capable of causing disease.

Every member of the animal and plants kingdoms is blessed with are termed ‘innate immune systems’, which mount an immediate defence against infections. What the researchers at Cornell University established is, in straightforward terms, that these innate immune systems use salicylic acid to trigger their response to attacks by pathogens; and that, by increasing the amount of salicylic acid present in certain plants … tobacco plants in their research studies … growers can encourage these plants to fight off disease more successfully.

The findings of his decade-old research hit the headlines recently … having been largely ignored the first time around … producing, among many other responses, a guide as to the best way to treat your tomatoes to a an aspirin. And this is what you do

First, very obviously, buy some inexpensive aspirin – soluble aspirin will make your task easier; next, mix a single tablet … yes, just a single tablet … with a gallon of water, or 4.54609 litres of water if you wish to be contemporarily pedantic. Make sure that the aspirin is well-and-truly dissolved. Add a splash of liquid soap to the mixture … just a splash, mind; this will reduce the tendency for the plants to shed the watery mixture. And finally, spray the tomato plants lightly every two to three weeks with this medicinal compound – you can start spraying the moment you place the plants into the soil.

“Seemple!” as Sergei the meerkat is wont to say in the series of influential television commercials. And, although I don’t grow tomatoes and consequently cannot endorse or deny the claims made for the beneficial effect of aspirin on ailing tomato plants, I can confidently assert that aspirin has never done me any harm; and I can reiterate my doctor’s assertion that aspirin is positively good for me. Furthermore, I can state that the salicylic acid, liquid soap and water mixture is very likely to be the cheapest plant problem solver you’ll ever find!