The tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum) is a plant belonging to the family Solanaceae (nightshade family). It is related to the potato and the eggplant. While technically a fruit, the tomato is commonly considered a vegetable because of its uses.

History Edit

Although the tomato was cultivated in Mexico and Peru for centuries before the European conquest, it is one of the newest plants to be used on a large scale for human food. The name of the tomato comes from the Nahuatl language which was spoken by the Aztecs and other groups in Central America. The Spanish explorers brought back the tomato seed from South America to use it purely for ornamentation puroposes, referring to the tomato as the "love apple." This is probably because of the fact that the tomato was commonly viewed as poisonous. This view has some basis in reality as the fruit of the tomato is the only part of the plant that isn't toxic. It is only in the past century that the tomato has become recognized as a valuable food.

Tomatoes have been used in salads as early as the 1600s. In the 1800s, the tomato was reintroduced as a food plant and now ranks third amongst US vegetable crops. While the tomato is still used as a salad vegetable, three quarters of tomatoes are processed into juice, canned tomato products, soups, catsup and tomato pastes. In Italy, tomato seed oil is extracted from the seeds left over from the canning process. The tomato is also used to create the anti-biotic tomatine. Currently, tomatoes are one of the most popular vegetables eaten by Americans.

Love apple Edit

A tomato moniker that originated in the 16th century when tomatoes from North Africa were known in Italy as pomo dei Mori, apples of the Moors. That was transliterated to the French pomme d'amour. . . love apple.

Varieties Edit


There are numerous varieties of tomato, ranging from the large beefsteak tomato to the very small cherry tomato. The most widely available varieties are classified in three groups: cherry, plum, and slicing tomatoes. Tomato shapes vary from spherical to elongate; sizes range from 0.6 inches across to more than 3 inches across. In recent years, heirloom tomatoes have become trendy in cooking and gardening. A new sweet variety like the cherry tomato is the grape tomato, which is really wonderful to eat alone or in a salad.

Selection Edit

Cold temperatures damage tomatoes, so never buy tomatoes that are stored in a cold area. Choose plump tomatoes with smooth skins that are free from bruises, cracks, or blemishes. Depending on the variety, ripe tomatoes should be completely red or reddish-orange.

Storage Edit

Store tomatoes at room temperature (above 55 degrees) until they have fully ripened. This will allow them to ripen properly and develop good flavor and aroma. Try to store tomatoes out of direct sunlight, because sunlight will cause them to ripen unevenly. If you must store them for a longer period of time, place them in the refrigerator. Serve them at room temperature. Chopped tomatoes can be frozen for use in sauces or other cooked dishes.

Cooking with Tomatoes Edit

To remove the skin off of a tomato, submerge a tomato a pot of boiling water for about a minute. Use a slotted spoon to remove the tomato from the pot. Let the tomato cool, then peel the skin off.

Tomato Recipes Edit

Sources Edit

  • tomato. (2004). In The Columbia Encyclopedia.
  • tomato. (2004). In Word Histories and Mysteries.
  • tomato. (2006). In Britannica Concise Encyclopedia.
  • Fruit & Vegetable of the Month: Tomato by the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, public domain government resource—source of Selection and Storage sections
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