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By definition a fruit is the edible part of the plant structure of a maturing ovary of a flowering plant.

Botanist believes that a fruit is any fleshy material that covers as seed or seeds, tomatoes are a fruit. Horticulturists believe that tomatoes are a vegetable, fruit grows on trees bearing fruit for many years and vegetables grow on plants that survive for only one growing season. In the 1800s to avoid taxation the tomato was classified as a fruit, however on May 10, 1893 , the United States Supreme court ruled that the tomato was a vegetable and should be taxed accordingly.  So are you a botanist or a horticulturist?  Let’s just agree that tomatoes are a great super food that tastes great and is good for you!

Tomatoes are native to the Americas. The Aztecs and Incas first cultivated tomatoes, called them “Tomatl”. It is believed that European explorers transported tomatoes back to Europe after leaving the Americas.

 Because tomatoes are related to the Nightshade family of plants, they were thought to be deadly and/or poisonous. However, their appearance was admired; the appeal of showcasing tomatoes on mantels was for the wealthy and royalty. Tomatoes on the mantel were also thought to ward off evil spirits and bring prosperity.

When tomatoes were not available a red cloth filled with sand or sawdust was made to resemble the tomato, also a great place to store pins.

Consumption did not occur until the Italians eventually overcame the fear calling the tomatl- pomi d’oro (golden apple) and introducing it into their cuisine. Today, it is simply called pomodoro tomatoes.

Tomatoes were widely used in early 1800s America by chefs of New Orleans. The flavors eventually found their way to New England in the 1830s and by the 1840s were regarded as a nutritious and medicinal staple of the American diet.  Today the US produces over 12 million tons of tomatoes per year.  

Tomatoes are the richest sources of Lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that unlike other nutrients is in its highest concentration after cooking and processing. Using the whole tomato, not peeled, maximizes the Lycopene.,  Carotenoids and Betacarotene. 75% more Lycopene and 41% more Beta Carotene is derived from using the peel in processing. Another nutrient, Zea-xanthin, a flavinoid that is abundantly available helps in the prevention and protection of Macular degeneration of the eyes primarily in the older persons.

The benefit to enjoying and adding tomatoes to your diet is the low calorie, low fat, high nutrient content. Tomato calories are a mere 18 per 3.5oz or 100 grams it is one of the lowest calorie vegetables we consume. With a low fat content and no cholesterol be sure to add this Super food into your program design of nutrition.

See the table below for in depth analysis of nutrients:

Tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum), raw, nutrition value per 100 g.
(Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)

There are approximately 7500 varieties of tomatoes used for many purposes and is the mostly widely grown vegetable in the US. Tomatoes are either classified determinate or indeterminate. Deteminates, also known as bush tomatoes, are mostly used by commercial producers. These tomatoes grow to a specific height and the growth cycle is specific to the same time for harvesting purposes. Most of these varieties are picked green to prolong the “shelf life” if being sold to the produce departments of grocers and markets..

Indeteminate varieties grow into vines and continue to grow and bear produce as long as they are healthy or until killed by frost. Indeterminate varieties are preferred by home growers and your local farmers due to the availability of ripe tomatoes from the vine throughout the whole season.

To get the most bang for your buck in terms of nutrition analysis, select the most red, vine ripened tomatoes available rather than green picked that turns red with time. You will attain nearly twice as much Vitamin C and Beta Carotene in the vine ripened than the green picked counterpart. Tomatoes with the most distinct brilliant red color will also have the most Lycopene.

Here is a link to a wide variety of tomatoes. Find which one you prefer.

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