Tomatoes are a versatile and widely consumed fruit that is often mistaken for a vegetable due to its culinary uses. They belong to the Solanaceae family, which also includes potatoes, peppers, and eggplants. Tomatoes come in various shapes, sizes, and colors, ranging from small cherry tomatoes to large beefsteak varieties, and they can be red, yellow, orange, green, or even purple.
Tomatoes have a rich history, originating in the Andes region of South America, where they were cultivated by indigenous peoples for thousands of years. Spanish explorers introduced tomatoes to Europe in the 16th century, and from there, they spread to other parts of the world. Today, tomatoes are grown on every continent except Antarctica.
Tomatoes are more than just a common kitchen ingredient; they are a symbol of global culinary diversity and a rich source of nutrition. Their history, versatility, and widespread use in various cuisines make them a beloved and essential component of many dishes enjoyed worldwide. Whether enjoyed fresh, cooked, or processed into products like sauces and juices, tomatoes continue to play a significant role in our diets and cultures.
Here are some mind-blowing facts.
• Speculations suggest that there are more than 25,000 varieties of tomatoes.
• 94.5% of the tomato’s weight is water.
• Tomatoes exhibit a spectrum of colors beyond red, including yellow, green, pink, purple, black, and even white.
• A tomato is technically a fruit that is sometimes considered a vegetable. The confusion arose after the 1890s when the US Supreme Court named it a vegetable for taxation purposes.
•The English word for tomato comes from the Spanish word tomate, which itself came from the Nahuatl, the ancient Aztec language, word tomatl. The Aztec name translated to “Plump thing with a navel.
• It was domesticated around 500 BC by Aztecs and used not only as food but also as a powerful (and dangerous) hallucinogenic.
• China is the largest producer of tomatoes historically, accounting for an approximate quarter of the world’s total production. The USA and India are the second and third highest producers respectively.
• The Guinness World Record for “most tomatoes harvested from a single plant over one year” was 32,194 tomatoes harvested between May 2005 and April 2006, and the plant weighed 522.464 kg (1151.84 lbs)!
• Tomatoes can keep longer if you store them with their stem down.
• Americans obtain more vitamins from tomatoes than from any other vegetable.
• The average American eats around 24 pounds of tomato each year.
• During the 17th and 18th centuries, tomato fruits were often used in Italy as table decoration. During that time, Italian botanists created countless types of tomatoes via selective breeding.
• 96% of the American processed tomato production comes from sunny California. Florida is the leader in the production and sale of fresh market tomatoes.
• The heaviest tomato was 3.51 kg, the largest tomato plant reached 19.8 meters, and the biggest tomato tree managed to grow 32 thousand tomatoes that weighed 522 kg.
• Tomatoes rapidly lose their Vitamin C if sunlight can reach them while they are stored.
• Sometimes tomatoes are picked green and dosed with ethylene gassed on their way to the supermarket. This way when they arrive, they are ripe.
• During the 19th century, tomatoes were affectionately referred to as the “Apple of Love” in France and the “Apple of Paradise” in Germany. In contrast, in England, they were often mistakenly regarded as poisonous.
• Tomato plant leaves are toxic.
• Tomatoes possess potent medicinal attributes. They can reduce the risk of cancer, help prevent cardiovascular diseases, cleanse cigarette smoke carcinogens, abound in minerals and vitamins, alleviate hypertension, regulate blood levels, aid in dissolving gallstones, lessen the severity of blood clots, address inflammation, and offer various other health benefits.
• Tomato juice is the official state beverage of Ohio and the state vegetable of New Jersey.
• Tomatoes stand as the most abundant natural source of lycopene, a potent antioxidant crucial for maintaining prostate health in men.