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Tomato , whether pronounced Tuh-MAY-toh or Tuh-MAH-to, is a delicious, nutritious fruit, more widely known as a vegetable. Botanically, a tomato (Solanum lycopersicum,) is the ovary of a flowering plant, therefore it is a fruit, or, more specifically, a berry. However, since it’s not as sweet as other fruits and is most often served in salads or as a main dish - most people refer to it as a vegetable. Approximately 130 million tons of tomatoes are produced in the world today with China being the largest producer, followed by the United States and Turkey. Tomato plants are also one of the most common home garden plants found in the U.S. There are many different varieties of tomato plants and most produce red fruit, but there are also tomato plants that produce yellow, orange, pink, purple, green and white fruit. Tomato plants vary in size from small cherry tomatoes to elongated plum tomatoes. Heirloom tomatoes are also becoming increasingly popular among home gardeners and organic producers. Heirloom tomatoes tend to be more disease resistant and produce very tasty, interesting fruits. Tomatoes are the state vegetable of New Jersey, and in Arkansas, it is both the state fruit and state vegetable. In the state of Ohio, tomato juice has been the official beverage since 1965.

Tomatoes can be easily grown from seeds, but to save time and energy, most home gardeners buy tomato plants or seedlings from nurseries and garden centers. Most tomato seeds that are purchased by gardeners are for hard to find heirloom varieties. Tomato seeds can be found in garden catalogs and can also be purchased online. Growing tomatoes is enjoyable and rewarding and doesn’t take a lot of space - they can even be grown in containers on patios or balconies. The main thing to remember about growing tomatoes is they need a lot of sunshine and a lot of water with good drainage. The tomato has a multitude of culinary uses and its’ high acidic content makes it very popular for canning. Joseph Campbell mass produced the first tomato soup in 1897, although the first recipe is credited to Maria Parloa for her tomato chowder in the 1872 book, The Appledore Cook Book. Today, tomato recipes number in the hundreds. You can find tomato recipes for everything from tomato marmalade to fried green tomatoes. With just a few basic tips and the proper steps, you can grow tomatoes that will produce luscious fruit that is both tasty and promotes good health.

Tomatoes are high in Vitamin A and C and are naturally low in calories. They are also an excellent source of lycopene, which is the pigment that makes tomatoes red and has been linked to the prevention of many types of cancer. Lycopene is an antioxidant which fights free radicals that can interfere with normal cell growth and activity. These free radicals are what can potentially lead to cancer, heart disease and premature aging. The best sources of lycopene are found in processed tomato products, such as ketchup and tomato products.


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