Fun Tomato Facts:
It’s a Fascinating Fruit!

Want some interesting tomato facts?

Well, the headline above is a good starting point.

I’m sure you noticed that I referred to the tomato as a fruit.

Do you think of tomatoes as a fruit? Most people probably think of it as a vegetable.

So what is it?

Well, scientifically the tomato is classified as a fruit.

But conflict over the fruit or veggie issue is actually one of the more interesting aspects of tomato history. In fact, there was a huge fray over this very issue in 1893.

Let’s take a look back… 

U.S. Supreme Court vs. Science

In the late 1800’s there was a ruckus over the status of the tomato. Why? It was all about money. U.S. tariff laws imposed a duty upon fruits, but not on vegetables. So should a duty be charged against tomatoes? It became such a controversy that the Supreme Court had to weigh in.

The decision?

It’s a veggie. Pay the duty!

And that’s not the last time that government has been involved in the controversy. The state of New Jersey has designated the tomato as the official state vegetable. But in 2009, the tomato was made the official state fruit of Ohio.

Sheesh, such confusion! It’s enough to give a veg…er, a fruit an identity crisis! 

The Early History of Tomatoes

Tomatoes are thought to have originated in South America as a small, cherry-sized fruit (sorry, Supreme Court!).

Through thousands of years of selective cultivation, the tomato evolved into it’s many present day varieties. Early Spanish explorers introduced the New World plant to Europe in the 1500’s.

According to legend, a watershed event in tomato history occurred in 1820 when Colonel Robert Gibbon consumed a bag of tomatoes on the courthouse steps in Salem, New Jersey. When horrified onlookers realized that the Colonel wasn’t going to drop dead, the prevailing belief that tomatoes were poisonous began to be dispelled.

Though the Colonel’s act of death-defying bravery is likely just legend, it is true that tomatoes were once widely thought to be poisonous – or at least unhealthy. Aren’t you glad we’ve since learned otherwise? 

Miscellaneous Tomato Facts

  •  Americans eat a yearly average of 80 pounds of tomatoes each.
  • The largest tomato ever grown weighed in at 7 pounds, 12 ounces. It was grown in Oklahoma in 1986. The plant that grew the tomato also set a record for the longest tomato vine ever grown at 53 feet and 6 inches.
  • The currant variety of tomatoes probably produces the world’s smallest fruit. Red Currant may be the most popular of these varieties, and produces fruit just ½ inch in diameter.
  • At a maximum height of 6 to 8 inches, the Micro-Tom is said to be the world’s smallest tomato plant. It produces gumball-sized fruit.
  • Heinz tomato ketchup was first produced in 1876.
  • Campbell’s tomato soup was introduced in 1897.
  • George Clooney starred in “Return of the Killer Tomatoes!” Sequel, of course, to the original “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes!”
  • Having trouble deciding which tomato varieties to grow? Small wonder; there are more than 10,000 of them!
  • Tomatoes are the world’s most popular fruit. Many more tons are produced yearly than even bananas or apples.

And last but not least: 85% of all backyard gardeners grow at least one variety of tomatoes!

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