10 Things You Definitely Didn’t Know About Tomatoes

Updated: May 03, 2024

Wow your friends with these amazing tomato facts next time you're all digging into pizza, pasta or BLTs.

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RIpe garden tomatoes ready for picking; Shutterstock ID 49492744; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): Taste of Home

Tomatoes Used to Be Tiny

Modern tomatoes grow up to 100 times larger than the tiny ones first cultivated by Andean people thousands of years ago. Tomatoes’ pea-sized predecessor still grows wild in Ecuador and Peru. Check out these other foods that are native to the Americas.

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Hands holding and offering a giant Zapotec pleated heirloom tomato; Shutterstock ID 691743028; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): Taste of Home
Madeleine Steinbach/shutterstock

But Today They Can Be Giant

The world’s heaviest tomato weighed in at a whopping 8.6 pounds, around the same size as a newborn baby. It was grown by Dan Sutherland of Walla Walla, Washington, in 2016. Check out these amazing recipes that really show off your brag-worthy tomatoes!

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woman's hands harvesting fresh organic tomatoes in her garden on a sunny day. Farmer Picking Tomatoes. Vegetable Growing. Gardening concept; Shutterstock ID 611692862; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): Taste of Home

Space Tomatoes Are a Thing

NASA and its partners run the Tomatosphere program. Tomato seeds are sent to the International Space Station, returned to earth and given out to classrooms. Kids then grow the space seeds, along with seeds that haven’t left Earth, to see if there are any differences. Children are naturally curious—learn how your little ones can help out in the kitchen.

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Olena Yakobchuk/shutterstock

The Fruit vs. Veggie Debate Rages On

The tomato is the official fruit or vegetable for several states. Tennessee and Ohio have claimed it as their state fruit, New Jersey says it’s a veggie, and Arkansas designated it as both. Even the Supreme Court has weighed in on this debate!

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Italian style pasta dinner. Pasta with tomato and basil in plate on the wooden rustic table and ingredients for cooking. Chef hands preparing delicious pasta with tomato sous. Homemade food.; Shutterstock ID 1084753496; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): Taste of Home

Thank the Italians

Around 1550, Italians were the first Europeans to grow and cook with tomatoes. The plants were grown in other parts of Europe soon after, but usually as an ornamental showpiece and not for food. Lasagna lovers will be forever grateful.

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colorful tomatoes; Shutterstock ID 256205770; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): Taste of Home

Tomatoes Aren’t Just Delicious, They’re Healthy

Tomatoes pack a powerful nutritional punch. A cup of raw tomatoes has more than 2 grams of fiber. They are also a healthy source of vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium and manganese. And lycopene, an antioxidant that gives most tomatoes their red color, has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease and cancer. Of course, fresh tomatoes are delicious, too!

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Oval pizza with yellow and red cherry tomatoes, ricotta cheese and basil on a wooden table.; Shutterstock ID 1193446483; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): Taste of Home
Nataliia Sirobaba/Shutterstock

Americans Love to Eat Tomatoes

Americans eat about 30 pounds of tomatoes a year, which are typically canned or in sauces (especially on pizza). Second only to potatoes as most popular vegetable, tomatoes also beat out apples, our country’s favorite fruit.

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Ripe tomatoes growing on the branches - cultivated in the garden; Shutterstock ID 210178453; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): Taste of Home
Zoia Kostina/Shutterstock

We Love to Grow Them, Too

More than 30 million gardeners plant tomatoes each growing season. A general rule of thumb says you’ll need to grow two tomato plants for each tomato eater in your household. But if you plan on canning tomatoes, four plants per person is a better bet. In addition to tomatoes, these vegetables are easy to grow in your garden.

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Tomatoes farm ; Shutterstock ID 166379804; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): Taste of Home
Jordan Lye/shutterstock

Some Tomatoes Just Keep Growing

Vining (also known as “indeterminate”) tomato plants will continue to grow until they’re killed by frost. Keep them off the ground with at least a 5- to 8-foot-tall cage or a trellis. Bush varieties (known as “determinate”) tomatoes are especially good choices for containers, hanging baskets or small spaces. Are you using the right kind of tomato in your recipes?

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Variety of multi-colored tomatoes on a srtaw at one of Parisian food markets; Shutterstock ID 150962780; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): Taste of Home

There Are 7,500+ Tomato Varieties

Gardeners can choose from more than 7,500 tomato varieties, bred for an array of needs and ranging from bite-sized cherry types to hefty beefsteaks. And heirloom varieties come in many colors other than red—look for purple, pink, yellow, orange, even black tomatoes! Hot tip: Think about how you’re going to use the tomato before picking a cultivar.

If you can’t wait for them to ripen, check out tasty ways to use green tomatoes.

Birds & Blooms
Originally Published in Birds & Blooms