The tomato is an edible berry of the tomato plant which originated from western South America and Central America. It is the most popular fruit (or vegetable, whatever) in America and is eaten by millions of people around the globe. According to Tomato News (2020), tomato is gaining even more popularity as consumption from 2018 to 2019 has already been marked at approximately 38.3 million metric tons. That’s just as heavy as about 38.3 million small cars!
Do you know that despite its fame today, tomato was once feared by many and was even called the “poison apple”? Read this article to know the fascinating rise of the tomato from notoriety to fame and its popular uses.
History of Tomato
The earliest record of tomato cultivation can be traced back to the Aztecs in 700 AD, who called the fruit tomatl. The Aztecs are Nahuatl-speaking indigenous people in South America known for their agriculture. Tomato was introduced to the world after the Spaniards conquered the Aztec empire in 1521. The Spanish conquistadores returning from their expeditions in Mexico promulgated tomato seeds in southern Europe where the fruit was called tomate.
When tomato reached Britain, the fruit started to be demonized on accounts that it caused death by poisoning among rich British people. It was even named the “poison apple”. The wealthy British used fancy pewter plates during that time which contained high amount of lead. When used to contain tomato, the fruit leeches out lead and causes lead-poisoning. Eventually, the tomato redeemed its reputation as a healthy food as tomato enthusiasts learned the true nature of the lead-poisoning that shocked wealthy Europeans.
After its travel around the world, the tomato was once again re-introduced to the Americans when Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, took heavy interest in the plant. Today, Americans are one of the biggest consumers of tomatoes.
Where Tomatoes are Grown
Tomato varieties are best grown in countries with temperate climates. Growing to a height of about 1-3 meters, they are cultivated throughout all seasons in a wide range of soils. In 2017, the major producers of tomatoes are China, India, Turkey, and United States. China contributes 31% of the total tomato production worldwide.
There has been a debate over whether tomato is a fruit or vegetable. Technically, it is a fruit, but generally, it is prepared and eaten as a vegetable. Regardless of how one sees them, tomatoes are sources of many nutrients such as vitamin A (good for the eyes), beta-carotene (good for cognition), vitamin C (good for skin), and lycopene (good for the heart and bones). Tomatoes also contain potassium, folate, and vitamin K.
According to FoodData Central, a small raw potato of about 100 grams can contain:
- Calories 18
- Water 95%
- Protein 0.09 grams
- Carbs 3.9 grams
- Sugar 2.6 grams
- Fiber 1.2 grams
- Fat 0.2 grams
Also be sure to check the Food Label with any canned tomatoes.
Types of Tomatoes
Tomatoes have at least 10,000 varieties and a wide range of flavor profiles. Here are the five most common types of tomatoes:
- Beefsteak Tomato. Beefsteak tomatoes are large, juicy tomatoes with meaty skin. Their typical colors are red, pink, and yellow. They are best used for sandwiches and hamburgers.
- Plum Tomato. Plum tomatoes cylindrical in shape and with few seeds. They are typically used for sauces, tomato pastes, and Italian recipes.
- Grape Tomato. Grape tomatoes are similar to plum tomatoes but smaller in size. They have a thick skin which make them perfect addiction to main dishes. They can also be eaten as snacks.
- Cherry Tomato. Cherry tomatoes are round and sweet tomatoes smaller than grape tomatoes. They are very versatile that can be used to add sweet and tangy taste to a dish.
- Cherokee Tomato. Cherokee tomatoes are juicy and purple in color. They can be eaten raw and fresh, making them perfect addition to salad.
You might think that the tomato is only as a good as a food, but the tomato – the most popular fruit in the world – actually has a lot of uses, including medicinal and cosmetic. Below are the popular uses of tomato:
- Food. Throughout its history, the tomato has been popular for its use in the kitchen, being a source of umami, one of the five basic tastes. Since the tomato is a versatile food, it can be eaten raw, turned into tomato paste, juice, tomato soup, and salsa, or it can be added in slices as taste boosters for salads, sandwiches, burgers, and many more.
- Medicine. Tomatoes are good source of lycopene, a nutrient that has been known to provide many health benefits such as reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, strong bones, healthy vision, skin protection, and immune system booster.
- Cosmetic. The nutrients found in tomatoes are also taken advantage of in the field of cosmetics. Its vitamin C and antioxidant contents help in remedying various skin concerns such as sun burn, skin cancer, skin inflammation, wounds, and collagen deficiency.
While tomatoes may have had a dark history, it cannot be denied that their presence in the kitchen is a must, not to mention that they possess nutrients that help humans maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Tomatoes originated from the Andes, in what is now called Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Ecuador.
They were cultivated by the Aztecs and Incas, and were spread to Europe by the Spanish.
While many consider tomatoes to be a vegetable, they are actually a fruit.
Tomatoes are rich in lycopene (an antioxidant that is good for the heart and effective against certain cancers), vitamins A and C, calcium, and potassium.
How much does a tomato weigh?
|Tomato, Red Ripe, Raw|
|Medium, whole||(2-3/5″ dia)||123g||4.3oz|
|Small, Whole||(2-2/5″ dia)||91g||3.2oz|
|Slice, Thick||(1/2″ thick from medium tomato)||27g||0.9oz|
|Wedge||(1/4 medium tomato)||31g||1.1oz|
|Slice, Medium||(1/4″ thick from medium tomato)||20g||0.7oz|
|Slice, Thin||(from medium tomato)||15g||0.5oz|
|Tomato, Cherry, Raw|
|Cup, Chopped||From Average Size||149g||5.3oz|
|Tomato, Italian or Plum|
Conversion from grams to ounce: 28.3495231g(rounded to 28.35)= 1 oz