It is tomato season – supermarkets, stores and street vendors are selling lots of them at remarkably reasonable prices.
Some historical facts about this favourite fruit:
•Tomatoes originated in the South American Andes around the area of modern day Peru and was first used as a food by the Aztecs in Southern Mexico.
•Because the tomato has seeds and grows from a flowering plant botanically it is classed as a fruit, not a vegetable.
•In 1887 America tariff laws imposed a duty on vegetables, but not on fruits. This meant the status of tomatoes become a matter of legal importance. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Nix v. Hedden that tomatoes were to be considered vegetables, based on the popular definition that classifies vegetables by use, where they are usually served with dinner and not as a dessert. However, the courts did not reclassify the tomato botanically, it is still a fruit.
•China is the largest producer of tomatoes, accounting for one quarter of the world’s production - United States and India and the second and third highest producers respectively.
•Most tomato varieties are red although other colours are possible including green, yellow, orange, pink, black, brown, white, and purple. There are more than 7 500 tomato varieties grown around the world.
•Types of tomatoes include slicing (globe) tomatoes used in processing and fresh eating. Beefsteak tomatoes are large, often used for sandwiches. Oxheart tomatoes vary in size and are shaped like large strawberries. Plum tomatoes (including pear tomatoes), are usually oblong, and used in tomato sauce and paste. Cherry tomatoes are small round, often sweet and eaten whole in salads. Campari tomatoes are sweet and juicy of small to medium size.
•Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that is good for the heart and effective against certain cancers. Cooked tomatoes are actually better than raw ones, as more beneficial chemicals are released. Tomatoes are also packed with vitamins A and C, calcium, potassium.
One serving of red, ripe, raw tomatoes (one cup or 150 grams) is a good source of Vitamins A, C, K, folate and potassium. Tomatoes are naturally low in sodium, saturated fat, cholesterol, and calories. Tomatoes also provide thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, magnesium, phosphorus and copper, all of which are necessary for good health.
One serving of tomatoes gives two grams of fiber, which is seven percent of the daily recommended amount.
Tomatoes also have a relatively high water content, which makes them a filling food.
•The biggest tomato fight in the world happens each year in the small Spanish town of Buñol. The festival called La Tomatina, involves some 40 000 people throwing 150 000 tomatoes at each other.
•The Guinness World Record for most tomatoes harvested from a single plant over one year weighed 522.464kg with 32 194 tomatoes harvested between May 2005 and April 2006. The tomato plant was at the Epcot Science project at Walt Disney World Company, Florida, U.S.
•As of 2013, the heaviest tomato according to Guinness World Record weighed 3.51kg and was grown in 1986, in Oklahoma, U.S.