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Tomatoes: Interesting Facts Every Tomato Lover Needs to Know


Americans eat an average of 80 pounds of tomatoes -- each -- every year, but there is still a lot you probably never knew about the familiar, humble tomato. For starters, tomato in French, pomme d'amour, means "love apple," because the heart-shaped fruit was regarded as an aphrodisiac.

cherry tomatoes

The first tomatoes were small like these cherry tomatoes. The larger, sliceable varieties came much later.

But it wasn't always this way. Since tomatoes are a part of the nightshade family (along with eggplants, sweet peppers and potatoes), people once thought they were poisonous and kept them strictly for decorative purposes in their gardens. It wasn't until the 16th century that tomatoes became a food source in Europe and Italy.

Meanwhile, according to the California Tomato Growers Association (CTGA), American colonists believed tomatoes were poisonous until 1820, when Robert Gibbon Johnson stood on the courthouse steps in New Jersey and ate a tomato in front of the villagers, proving they were, indeed, safe.

Fruit or Veggie?

If you want to be technical about it, a tomato is, in fact, a fruit since it is the ripened ovary of a seed plant. But for those of you who like to insist that tomatoes really act more like a veggie, well you'll be glad to hear about the U.S. Supreme Court case of NIX v. HEDDEN, which took place in 1893.

The case was over, you guessed it, whether a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable -- and the Supreme Court ruled that tomatoes were to be considered vegetables.

Tomatoes are Super Healthy

Aside from being rich in vitamins C, A and K, tomatoes contain lycopene, a carotenoid with potent antioxidant and cancer-fighting properties. Lycopene protects cells from oxygen damage, fights colorectal, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and pancreatic cancers, and reduces your risk of heart disease.

Studies have found that the synergy between phytonutrients and lycopene in tomatoes, rather than an isolated nutrient, is what's responsible for their benefits.


The largest tomato on record? A 7-pounder grown in Oklahoma.

Cooked tomatoes are a more concentrated source of lycopene than raw ones, and lycopene is better absorbed when they're cooked with a little oil, making homemade tomato sauces an ideal source. And if you're a ketchup fan, listen up: even this condiment favorite is a good source of lycopene, particularly if you go organic (organic ketchup contains about three times as much lycopene as non-organic brands).

Where Did Tomatoes Come From?

Contrary to popular belief, they did not originate in Italy, though today Italian cuisine is perhaps the one most associated with them. Tomatoes actually are native to the western side of South America, including the Galapagos Islands.

The first tomatoes were probably small, cherry-sized fruits, which have since expanded into the thousands of different varieties known today.

Cooking With Tomatoes

When you buy fresh tomatoes, choose those that are deep in color with a sweet fragrance. If possible, look for homegrown varieties from farmer's markets or roadside fruit stands -- you'll taste the difference.

Store them at room temperature, as putting them in the fridge will alter their ripening process and ruin their flavor.

If you buy canned tomatoes, look for those produced in the United States. Other countries may not have as strict standards when it comes to lead in the containers, and in the case of tomatoes -- a highly acidic fruit that can cause metals to leach from the cans -- it is a significant concern.

Most of you probably have a favorite tomato recipe already, but we wanted to share one of ours. This one is from Alive in 5: Raw Gourmet Meals in Five Minutes, and if you like it, you'll also love the other 100+ pages of raw food recipes that this unique cookbook has to offer.

Crème Tomat


3 large ripe tomatoes
1 cup almond milk
1 ripe avocado
1/2 cup fresh basil
1/4 cup fresh oregano
1 teaspoon Himalayan salt
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  • Combine all the ingredients in a blender, and process until smooth.

Makes 3 servings.

Recommended Reading

Garbanzo Beans: The Cholesterol-Lowering, Energy-Raising, Good-for-More-Than-Just Hummus Bean That's Been Consumed for 7,000 Years

Jicama: the Healthy, Versatile Vegetable that Tastes Like a Fruit and Acts Like a Water Chestnut (Plus Two Bonus Recipes!)


California Tomato Growers Association

World's Healthiest Foods

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