It is difficult to get away from tomatoes when eating a meal. They are found in salads, soups, sandwiches, pizzas, scrambled eggs, pasta dishes, salsas, ketchup and sauces, to name just a few. A playful rhyme clearly articulates how prevalent the tomato has become: “eaten on pizza/or piled on toast/breakfast, lunch or dinner/I eat tomatoes the most.”
Due to the popularity of many Italian tomato-based dishes, many people believe that tomatoes came from Italy. In actuality, tomatoes originated from South America; and the word, “tomato,” is derived from the Aztec word, “xitomatl,” which means “plump thing with a navel.”
In addition to its etymology, here are some fine points about the tomato that you might find noteworthy.
- Botanically-speaking, the tomato is a fruit even if many regard it as a vegetable. The confusion stems from a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1887 that classified the tomato as a vegetable for taxation purposes.
- There are more than 10,000 varieties of tomatoes. Although red is the color that most people associate with the tomato, they also come in yellow, orange, pink, purple, black, and white. The shapes also vary. While the most common ones are round and plump with flat tops, others are formed like hearts or eggs; while others are as round and as small as ping-pong balls.
- Tomatoes become heavier as they mature.
- A tomato plant inside the Walt Disney Resort in Florida holds the record as the world’s largest tomato plant, covering an area of over 56 square meters. The plant produced more than 32,000 fruits from May 2005 to April 2006. The tomatoes harvested from the plant are served at the resort’s restaurants.
- There are several festivals around the world honoring the tomato; but the biggest and messiest one is the “La Tomatina” festival in Valencia, Spain, an annual event that is held on the last Wednesday of August. During the festival’s famed tomato fight, where thousands of participants throw ripe tomatoes at each other, more than 200,000 thousand pounds of tomatoes are used.
- Health experts recommend the inclusion of tomatoes in the diet primarily because of its high Vitamin C content and the presence of lycopene, an antioxidant that is beneficial to the heart and helps prevent certain forms of cancer. Other nutrients found in tomatoes include Vitamin A, potassium and calcium.
- The nutrients found in tomatoes are better absorbed by the body when they are consumed cooked rather than raw.
- Eating cooked tomatoes is a good complement to applying sunscreen, since they can help the body block harmful UV rays.