Red Sauce for the Red Planet - Celebrating British Tomato Week 2022!
The week commencing May 23rd marks the beginning of British Tomato Fortnight 2022. British tomatoes are famous for their sweet, earthy flavours, and despite importing from countries the world over, at least a fifth of all tomatoes eaten in Britain come from local soils.
Whilst we have only just gotten over the fact that tomatoes are a fruit, there’s a lot of other exciting things surrounding our beloved toms. Not only are British growers finding unique ways to help bee populations whilst increasing their tomato yields, there is even a farmer from Merseyside using light technology to grow tomatoes all year round to reduce our reliance on imports. Environmentally friendly, and tasty. Impressive stuff.
Tomatoes also have a plethora of health benefits
They are a great source of the antioxidant lycopene, which helps to reduce heart disease, and even cancer. There are also an abundant source of vitamin C, K, A, potassium, and folate. What many haven’t stopped to consider, however, is their application in…space.
Tomatoes in space? Marz Ketchup?
Humankind’s recent exploration of Mars has led to some pertinent questions: Is there really life on Mars? Can we live there in the future? And more importantly, will Heinz be available?
Three years ago, the taste-testing, ground-breaking Tomato Masters at Heinz succeeded in growing tomatoes under the conditions of Martian regolith. The final result saw the launch of a limited edition product, Marz Ketchup, allegedly indistinguishable from the brand’s iconic product. In a specially designed greenhouse, dubbed ‘The Redhouse’, the Florida Institute of Technology’s Aldrin Space Institute and a team from Heinz established a way of growing tomatoes with heat from artificial LED lighting, mimicking the heat of Mars, managing to recreate the soil and lighting conditions particular to the red planet. Impressive stuff.
Cristina Kenz, growth manager for Kraft Heinz International Zone, said in a statement, “from analysing the soil from Mars’ conditions two years ago to harvesting now, it’s been a journey that has proven no matter where we end up, Heinz Tomato Ketchup will still be enjoyable for generations to come.”
Where does Sent Into Space come into the picture?
Last year, we teamed up with Heinz to unveil the project by sending a bottle of the limited edition ‘Marz Ketchup’ into the stratosphere. What could be a more appropriate advertising campaign for a sauce inspired by the wonders of our Milky Way, than a space launch headed for the stars? Here is a photo taken during the Marz edition launch from above the clouds. A tasty collab indeed.
What does this project mean for the future of our planet?
The Marz Ketchup project began by specially selecting the perfect seeds and implementing novel techniques to allow the crop to grow. There are very few projects that have succeeded in yielding fruit for crops grown in Martian conditions, so this was quite the triumph for the field of science, and consequently, ecology and astronomy. If healthy crops can flourish under such extreme conditions, then there is promise for improving growth rates in harsh, and at present, inhospitable environments here on Earth.
In response to the project’s success, British astrophysicist, Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock said: “I find it so exciting that a longstanding, well-established company like Heinz is, as always, future gazing, and has "Mars in its eyes…this project is critical in tackling both our short-term and long-term goals in feeding people for generations to come.”
However, not only is Martian regolith devoid of substantial organic matter, such as fungi and microbes to speed up the growing process, the planet’s harsh atmosphere makes life difficult to sustain. Whilst the team at Heinz have successfully managed to grow tomatoes here on Earth, the crops would not have been privy to the kind of toxicity found in the red planet’s nutrient-poor soil.
If a ‘Redhouse’ of sorts was ever to be set up on Mars, a great deal of terra-forming would have to be established for the project to have a chance of success. Either way, this was not an Elon Musk mission by any means and the project succeeded in its aims, showing promise in terms of its findings’ applications here on Earth, and further, lead to the publication of several scientific papers charting the mission.