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