10 Things You Definitely Didn’t Know About Tomatoes
Wow your friends with these amazing tomato facts next time you're all digging into pizza, pasta or BLTs.
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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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
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.