NASA’s Space Tomatoes and Air Purifying Houseplants

When I was in middle school in 1990 I remember being one of 3 students in my school invited to take part in a nationwide collaboration between NASA and American schools. Does anybody else remember growing space tomatoes? NASA brought back tomato seeds that had been stored in space for 6 years and then asked school children to grow them and report their results.

In 1984, the same year that NASA sent those tomatoes into space, they released a now well-known study about air purifying houseplants. If you were a peace lily grower in 1984 you were probably a very happy farmer. The lily, along with the other top 9 contenders, have become widely marketed as our greener cleaners.


Last year I received a peace lily as a housewarming gift. Having not repotted it or done much other than watering, I can attest to their hardiness. But if you’re tired of this ubiquitous office plant, there are quite a few others you can choose from. Here are two sites that have compiled NASA’s top 10 as well as another study from 1990 that expanded the list to twenty five.

Curious about what became of my space tomatoes? Well, all the seeds sprouted and grew prolific foliage. Growing up on a hobby farm in Northern Michigan, we were not strangers to gardening. But we were also not strangers to a surprise late frost. So, yeah, I never got to taste a space tomato. If you have I’d love to hear about it.


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