Everyone knows that tomatoes are healthy vegetables, loaded with vitamins and lycopene. Tomatoes are great additions to a healthy diet. Experts at the Mayo Clinic and, even, our own doctors and nutritionists tell us that eating lots of tomatoes can reduce your risk of cardiovascular and many other diseases.
But, there’s a lot more to the tomato than meets the eye. Check out what may be the first-ever Interview with a Tomato. Everything you wanted to know about the tomato, but were afraid to ask.
Q-Do you have time to talk?
A-Sure! Ask me anything. I’m a tomato. So, there’s really not much to do other than sit around and wait for someone to take me home for supper.
Q-Where did your ancestors originate?
A-Tomatoes are believed to be native to the Americas and go all the way back in time to the Aztecs in approximately 700 AD.
Q-You’re not from Italy?
A-Not at all. In fact, tomatoes didn’t catch on with the Europeans until the 16th century or so, after they found out we’re not poisonous.
Q-How did the tomato catch on in Europe?
A-The tomato became popular in southern Europe where people used tomatoes in making these great, rich sauces. But, it took awhile to gain acceptance in Northern Europe and England where they sorta admired us for our beauty, but believed we were poisonous to eat.
Q-Isn’t that silly?
A-Actually, it wasn’t. In those days, people ate off metal dishes made of pewter and other metals. When combined with acidic food like tomatoes, these containers leeched lead. Poor people, on the other hand, ate their meals from wooden bowls and plates. Tomatoes and other acidic foods didn’t react to wood.
Q-How did tomatoes catch on in the New World?
A-With immigration of Italian Americans to the New World came Italian cuisine and tomato-based sauces. Tomatoes weren’t commonly adopted in everyday kitchens until the late 19th century.
Q-About how many tomatoes are consumed in the United States each year?
A-Experts suggest that Americans eat about 12 tons of tomatoes each year.
Q-Where are tomatoes commonly used in the kitchen?
A-Primarily in spaghetti sauce, on pizza, in salsa, and on salads.
Q-Where does the tomato gets its healthy rep?
A-We’re packed with vitamins and lycopene which combine to keep free radicals and disease at bay. We’re really good for you. But, we taste good as well.
Q-What’s the difference between regular tomatoes and, say, organic or heirloom varieties?
A-Price. Oh, and attitude. Heirlooms are particularly snooty. Long blood lines, popular appeal, and a fashion-forward perspective will do that to you.
Q-Should we buy organic for additional health benefits?
A-Sure, if you have the money. Otherwise, any tomato will do.
Q-Didn’t you have a fight with the IRS or something?
A-Funny you should mention it. Tomatoes were initially classified as a fruit to avoid taxation. Later, the Supreme Court ruled that tomatoes were a vegetable.
A-No, I am not.
Q-Anything else you want to say to the many tomato fans out there?
A-Sure. People often ask me about the proper pronunciation of my name. It’s T-O-M-A-T-O. Long “O” like, “Oh no, it’s a tomato!” That’s it. That’s all I have to say.
Tomato History: From Poison to Obsession in Tomato Gardening Guru Newsletter
The Tomato in America: Early History, Culture, and Cookery
By Andrew F. Smith (University of South Carolina Press, 1994)