They’re the “berries”….really!
Tomatoes are really a fruit. To be precise, they are actually a BERRY (would you believe?) since they are fleshy fruit produced from a single ripened ovary (An “ovary” is the seed-producing part of a plant.) What’s really weird is that tomatoes are berries and strawberries are not…but none of that here.
Most people use them as vegetables so that’s what we will call them. There are over 4,000 varieties of tomatoes. They are easy to grow, and can be grown in pots on the patio, in hay bales, in tiny garden plots in the backyard, and in regular-sized gardens.
It is believed that the tomato is native to South America. The first tomato plants grown by man may have been a little yellow fruit, similar in size to a cherry tomato, grown by the Aztecs of Central Mexico. In fact, the word “tomato” comes from the Nahuatl word tomatl, literally “the swelling fruit”.
When the Spanish explorers came to the new world, they brought the tomato back to Europe with them in around 1500 A.D. No long after they were being grown in Italy and all around the Mediterranean Sea. Recipe for tomato dishes were published in Naples in 1692. But in England, people considered them unfit for eating. Thomas Jefferson, knowing better, grew them the United States in the 1780s when most Americans thought they were poisonous and good only for ornamental purposes. Times sure have changed !
The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that the average American eats over 22 pounds (10 kilograms) of tomatoes each year, mostly in the form of ketchup and tomato sauce. We use them diced on tacos and pizza, in salsa, in spaghetti sauces and a whole bunch of other dishes. That’s a good thing because tomatoes are a treasure of riches when it comes to vitamin C and their antioxidant benefits.