Technically, the tomato is a fruit because it is the ripened ovary of a plant! However, to settle a court case over a tax tariff in 1893, the United States Supreme Court ruled the tomato was a vegetable!
Did you know tomatoes are the most popular garden vegetable crop in Texas? They are grown for a variety of reasons:
- Tomatoes that are grown in the Lower Rio Grande Valley are often used for commercial sale and the production of tomato paste
- 90% of tomatoes are for local fresh market and roadside sale, mostly in St. Augustine, Cherokee, and Van Zandt Counties in East Texas
- There are many varieties of tomatoes which results in tomatoes of all sizes, shapes, and colors
Parts of a Tomato Plant
- Leaf: the leaf uses a process called photosynthesis which turns sunlight into energy for the plant
- Stem: in addition to supporting and elevating flowers, the stem also transports water and nutrients from the roots to the rest of the plant
- Flower: this is the part of the plant where reproduction begins when pollinators such as birds or bees spread pollen from one plant to another
- Fruit: this part is the ripened ovary of the tomato plant and the part that is harvested
- Roots: this is the part of the plant underground that absorbs water and nutrients from the soil and also supports and anchors the plant
Growth Cycle of Tomatoes
- Tomatoes are one fo the easiest plants to grow. They require sunlight and warm temperature for good growth.
- When ready to be picked, the tomatoes will reach a full, red color. Although, some people enjoy eating green tomatoes as well.
- If tomatoes are picked prior to being ready, they can ripen at room temperature.
Tomatoes can be used in a variety of ways. Some common items made from tomatoes are ketchup, marinara, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and tomato soup.
Tomatoes can also be found in a variety of canned goods, which can then be included in recipes. Examples of this include diced tomatoes and stewed tomatoes.
How to Prepare Tomatoes
Fresh tomatoes are popular in salads, on sandwiches and sliced. They can also be used as the main ingredient in foods such as salsa and pico de gallo.
Whether fresh or canned, tomatoes can also be cooked and used in different ways. Diced tomatoes can be used in casseroles or even mixed into a vegetable dish. Tomato sauce and tomato paste can be used to make your own marinara.
Health and Nutrition
Tomatoes are fat-free, low in sodium, and a good source of Vitamins A and C. A half cup of tomatoes has 15% of the daily recommended value of vitamin C.
Bielamowicz, M.K. & Robinson, S.F. (2011). Nutrient Needs at a Glance. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Publication E-589.
Masabni, J. (2010). Easy Gardening: Tomatoes. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Publication EHT- 043.
Masabni, J. & Dainello, F. (2009). Texas Vegetable Growers Handbook. Retrieved online on 6/16/2017 at: http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/vegetable/guides/texas-vegetable-growers-handbook/United States
Department of Agriculture. (2012). Household USDA Foods Fact Sheet: Tomatoes, Fresh. Retrieved on 6/19/2017 from: https://whatscooking.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/factsheets/ HHFS_TOMATOES_FRESH_Oct2012.pdf