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Facts about Tomatoes for Kids

  • Originating in South America, the tomato was spread around the world following the Spanish colonization of the Americas, and its many varieties are now widely grown, often in greenhouses in cooler climates.
  • The tomato fruit is consumed in diverse ways, including raw, as an ingredient in many dishes and sauces, and in drinks.
  • While it is botanically a fruit, it is considered a vegetable for culinary purposes, which has caused some confusion.
  • The vegetable is rich in lycopene, which may have beneficial health effects.
  • The plants typically grow to 1–3 meters (3–10 ft) in height and have a weak stem that often sprawls over the ground and vines over other plants.
  • Genetic evidence shows the progenitors of tomatoes were herbaceous green plants with small green vegetable and a center of diversity in the highlands of Peru.
  • One species, Solanum lycopersicum, was transported to Mexico, where it was grown and consumed by Mesoamerican civilizations.
  • Because of the long growing season needed for this heat-loving crop, several states in the US Sun Belt became major tomato-producers, particularly Florida and California.
  • The tomato is now grown worldwide for its edible fruits, with thousands of cultivars having been selected with varying fruit types, and for optimum growth in differing growing conditions.
  • Heirloom tomatoes are becoming increasingly popular, particularly among home gardeners and organic producers, since they tend to produce more interesting and flavorful crops at the cost of disease resistance and productivity. In 1973, Israeli scientists developed the world’s first long shelf-life commercial tomato varieties.
  • Beefsteak tomatoes are large tomatoes often used for sandwiches and similar applications.
  • Plum tomatoes, or paste tomatoes, are bred with a higher solids content for use in tomato sauce and paste, and are usually oblong.
  • In 1994, Calgene introduced a genetically modified tomato called the ‘FlavrSavr’, which could be vine ripened without compromising shelf life.
  • Recently, stores have begun selling “tomatoes on the vine”, which are determinate varieties that are ripened or harvested with the fruits still connected to a piece of vine.
  • Tomatoes are now eaten freely throughout the world, and their consumption is believed to benefit the heart, among other organs.
  • They contain the carotene lycopene, one of the most powerful natural antioxidants.
  • One exception is that tomatoes are treated as a fruit in home canning practices: they are acidic enough to be processed in a water bath rather than a pressure cooker as vegetables would require.