A staple of salads and deliciously sweet we have been eating tomatoes for hundreds of years, best of all they can protect us from disease
Although tomatoes are much used in savoury foods their biology tell us that they are technically a fruit.
The name 'tomato' is believed to come from the Aztec word 'xitomati', which means 'plump thing with a navel'. The botanical name Lycopersicon lycopersicum translates from the Greek as 'wolf peach', possibly because of its inferiority to the 'real' peach.
Native to Ecuador and Peru, in South America, tomatoes were first domesticated in Mexico and other parts of Central America. They reached Britain in the 1590s and are mentioned in Gerard's Herbal, published in 1597, but no one is really sure how they arrived or who brought them to the UK.
Good or bad for you?
For centuries tomatoes were believed to be poisonous, which persisted in North America until the 1820s. Happily we now know that tomatoes are actually good for your health, containing lycopene one of the most powerful natural antioxidants, and believed to help protect against some forms of cancer. Cooked tomatoes are considered better than raw ones as more lycopene is released during the cooking process.
China is the world's largest producer of tomatoes, followed by the USA, Turkey, India and Egypt. Commercial production did not begin until the 19th century and in the UK the first glasshouses for tomatoes were erected in Essex and Kent. Today the tomato is the most widely grown 'vegetable' in the world, cultivated as far north as Iceland and as far south as the Falkland Islands.
Fun facts on toms
- The tomato is the official state fruit of both Tennessee and Ohio, with tomato juice being the official state beverage of Ohio.
- Florida grows more of the USA's tomatoes than any other state.
- The world's heaviest tomato was grown in Oklahoma in 1986, weighing in at 3.5kg (7lb 12oz).
- The world's largest tomato plant was an example of 'Sungold' F1 produced by Nutriculture Ltd of Mawdesley, Lancashire, in 2000. It reached 65ft.
Question - What is the difference between knowledge and wisdom?
Answer - Knowledge is knowing the tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not adding it to a fruit salad!
Grafted Tomato Plant Collection only £9.95 plus FREE p&p.
Growing your own tomatoes is very straight forward and with these grafted varieties you're sure to get a delicious harvest this summer.
Collection includes 3 plants, 1 each of: Coeur de boeuf, Shirley, and Super sweet.
To take advantage of this offer please quote promotional code F17DRHS10 when you order either online or by phone 0333 777 3936.
A wide range of brassica seed, such as cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and kale can be sown this month. Visit Mr-Fothergills.co.uk to view their range.
View Mr Fothergill's products, widely available in garden centres and gardening retailers.
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