The tomato is the nutritious berry of the tomato plant Solanum lycopersicum. The species originated in western South America and Central America. The Nahuatl (Aztec language) word tomatl became the Spanish word tomate, which became the English word tomato.
Tomatoes are nutrient-dense superfoods that can support a multitude of bodily functions. Its dietary benefit stimulates glowing skin, weight loss, and cardiovascular health. Tomatoes have surpassed potatoes, lettuce, and onions as the fourth most popular fresh-market vegetable. Tomatoes are one of the strongest suppliers of umami taste. Tomatoes are used in a number of foods, sauces, salads, and cocktails, both raw and baked. Tomatoes, which are botanically known as berries, are widely used as a food ingredient or side dish, considering the fact that they are fruits.
Tomato plants of different varieties are commonly cultivated in temperate climates around the world, with greenhouses allowing the production of tomatoes at all times of the year.
Tomato plants are decumbent vines that grow 180 cm (6 ft) or more above the ground if supported, while erect bush varieties have been bred that grow to be 100 cm (3 ft 3 in) tall or shorter. Indeterminate forms are “tender” perennials that die every year in temperate climates (they’re native to tropical highlands), though they can survive up to three years in a greenhouse. In all climates, determinate types are annual.
Tomato plants are dicots, and they emerge as a series of branching stems with a terminal bud at the tip that actually develops. When the tip stops developing, whether due to pruning or flowering, lateral buds take over and develop into new vines that are completely functional.
Tomato vines are usually pubescent, which means they have fine small hairs surrounding them. These hairs assist in the vining process by forming roots anywhere the plant comes into contact with the ground and moisture, especially if the vine’s original root has been weakened or severed.
The majority of tomato plants have compound leaves, which are referred to as regular leaf (RL) plants, but some cultivars have plain leaves that are referred to as potato leaf (PL) type owing to their similarity to that particular relative. Rugose leaves, which are heavily grooved, and variegated, angora leaves, which have additional colors due to a genetic defect that allows chlorophyll to be removed from certain parts of the leaves, are examples of RL plants.
The leaves are 10–25 cm (4–10 in) long, odd pinnate, with five to nine leaflets on petioles, each leaflet up to 8 cm (3 in) long and serrated on the margin; the stem and leaves are glandular-hairy.
The anthers of their flowers, which occur on the apical meristem, are fused around the margins, forming a column around the pistil’s style. Domestic cultivars’ flowers can be self-fertilizing. The flowers are yellow and 1–2 cm (12–34 in) long, with five pointed lobes on the corolla, and are borne in cymes of three to twelve.
Tomatoes are called vegetables in culinary terms, but their fruit is botanically known as a berry. It emerges as a true fruit from the plant’s ovary after fertilization, with the flesh surrounding the pericarp walls. The fruit has locular cavities, which are hollow spaces filled with seeds and moisture. This differs based on the type of cultivated species. Few smaller varieties have two cavities, while globe-shaped varieties normally have three to five, beefsteak tomatoes have a lot of smaller cavities, and paste tomatoes have a lot of small cavities. Seeds must come from a mature fruit and be dried or fermented before germination for propagation.
Types (Varieties) of Tomato
Tomatoes come in different types and forms. They can be meaningfully classified into different species which are as shown below:
- Heirloom Tomatoes
- Beefsteak Tomatoes
- Plum Tomatoes
- Yellow Tomatoes
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Green Tomatoes
- Campari Tomatoes
- Pear Tomatoes
- Brandywine Tomatoes
- Cherokee Purple Tomatoes
The word “heirloom” refers to the process of breeding tomatoes (and a number of other fruits and vegetables). Unlike hybrid tomatoes, which are the product of cross-breeding, heirloom tomatoes can be traced back to a single genetic line. They are, in essence, purebreds. Heirloom tomatoes are prized for their superior flavor and texture, and they come in a wide range of colors, including orange and deep purple. However, because of this single strain, heirloom tomatoes have a shorter shelf life and are less disease resistant than hybrids.
Beefsteak tomatoes are among the largest cultivated tomatoes available, with a meaty texture and a rich, classic tomato flavor. Beefsteak tomatoes are typically red or pink, but some varieties produce purple, black, or yellow fruit. Beefsteak tomatoes hold up well when sliced, thanks to their thick consistency and compact seed cavities, making them ideal for sandwiches.
Plum tomatoes, also known as processing or paste tomatoes, have a nearly cylindrical form and little seeds, making them suitable for preservation. As a result, premade sauces and tomato paste, as well as diced and canned tomatoes, are popular (Roma tomatoes are a plum variety). Grape tomatoes are plum tomatoes that are smaller in size.
Yellow fruit is provided by a variety of tomato varieties, both heirloom and hybrid. Yellow tomatoes are less acidic and have a different nutritional value than red tomatoes: for example, yellow tomatoes are rich in folate but have less vitamin C than red tomatoes.
While cherry tomatoes are small, they pack a sweet, summery punch. Red is the most common colour, but they can also be yellow, green, or even black. Cherry tomatoes are smaller and have a softer appearance than grape tomatoes.
Green fruit is produced by many tomato varieties, including the heirloom green zebra and Cherokee green. Green tomatoes, on the other hand, may refer to unripened red tomatoes that are picked early for purposes such as breading, baking, or pickling.
Brandywine tomatoes are a beefsteak tomato variety that has big, pink fruit and a good taste. They’re one of the most popular heirloom tomato types, and they’re also some of the best-tasting. These are better eaten raw, as in a Caprese salad or traditional bruschetta.
Cherokee Purple Tomatoes
Cherokee purple tomatoes, another heirloom beefsteak type, are characterized by their dark flesh and translucent skin. Cherokee purple tomatoes are thick, juicy, and better eaten raw and fresh.
Historical Background (Origin) of Tomato
Western South America is home to the tomato’s wild ancestor. They were the size of peas in these wild variants. The Aztecs and other Mesoamericans were the first to domesticate and use the fruit in their cooking. Tomatoes were first brought to Europe by the Spanish, who used them in their cuisine. The tomato was first cultivated as an ornamental plant in France, Italy, and northern Europe. Botanists classified it as a nightshade, a relative of the poisonous belladonna, so it was viewed with skepticism as a food. This was made worse by the acidic tomato juice reacting with the pewter plates. Tomatine is found in the leaves and young fruit, which is poisonous in significant amounts. The ripe fruit, on the other hand, is devoid of tomatine.
The precise date of domestication is uncertain, but it was being grown in southern Mexico and presumably other areas by 500 BC. Those who experienced the eating of tomato seeds is believed to be endowed with divination ability by the Pueblo people. A mutation from a smoother, smaller fruit, the big, lumpy tomato originated in Mesoamerica and may be the direct ancestor of some modern cultivated tomatoes.
The Aztecs developed a number of tomato varieties, including xictomatl (red tomatoes) and tomatl (green tomatoes) (Tomatillo). Bernardino de Sahagn saw a huge range of tomatoes in the Aztec market in Tenochtitlán (Mexico City): “big tomatoes, small tomatoes, leaf tomatoes, sweet tomatoes, large serpent tomatoes, nipple-shaped tomatoes,” and tomatoes in every color from bright red to deep yellow. “foods sauces, hot sauces; fried [food], olla-cooked [food], juices, sauces of juices, shredded [food] with chile, with squash seeds [most likely Cucurbita pepo], with tomatoes, with smoked chile, with hot chile, with yellow chile, with mild red chile sauc,” Bernardino de Sahagn wrote.
After capturing the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan, now Mexico City, in 1521, Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés may have been the first to introduce the small yellow tomato to Europe. The first mention of the tomato in European literature was in a herbal written in 1544 by Pietro Andrea Mattioli, an Italian physician and botanist, who claimed that a new type of eggplant had been brought to Italy that was blood red or golden in color when mature and could be divided into segments and cooked and seasoned with salt, black pepper, and oil. It wasn’t until ten years later that Mattioli named tomatoes pomi d’oro, or “golden apples,” in print.
Following their colonization of the Americas, the Spanish spread the tomato throughout their Caribbean colonies. They also brought it to the Philippines, from where it spread throughout Southeast Asia and eventually the entire Asian continent. The tomato was also brought to Europe by the Spaniards. It thrived in Mediterranean climates and was first cultivated in the 1540s. It was most likely eaten soon after its introduction, and it was certainly being used as food in Spain by the early 17th century.
In the 1500s, the tomato was brought to China, most likely from the Philippines or Macau. It was assigned the name fanqié (barbarian eggplant), like many foodstuffs imported from abroad were called by the Chinese, except this time relating to early introductions.
The house steward of Cosimo de’ Medici, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, wrote to the Medici private secretary on October 31, 1548, telling him that the basket of tomatoes sent from the grand duke’s Florentine estate at Torre del Gallo “had arrived safely.” Tomatoes were mostly cultivated as ornamentals in Italy when they first arrived. They “were to be found only for their elegance,” according to Florentine aristocrat Giovanvettorio Soderini, and were cultivated only in gardens or flower beds. The tendency of the tomato to mutate and produce new and varied varieties aided in its growth and spread across Italy. Except in climates where tomatoes could be grown, their habit of growing to the ground indicated a low status. Since they were not as filling as other fruits already available, they were not accepted as a staple of the peasant population. Furthermore, the poisonous and inedible varieties deterred many people from using or preparing all other varieties. The fruit was only used as a tabletop decoration in some parts of Italy, such as Florence, until it was introduced into the local cuisine in the late 17th or early 18th century. Though the author had evidently derived these recipes from Spanish sources, the first found cookbook with tomato recipes was published in Naples in 1692.
Tomatoes did not become common in England until the 1590s. John Gerard, a barber-surgeon, was one of the first cultivators. Gerard’s Herbal, first published in 1597 and heavily plagiarized from continental sources, is also one of the earliest English discussions of the tomato. Gerard was aware that tomatoes were consumed in Spain and Italy. Regardless, he assumed it was toxic. For several years, the tomato was deemed unfit for consumption (though not strictly poisonous) in Britain and its North American colonies because of Gerard’s beliefs.
Tomatoes were commonly consumed in Britain by the mid-18th century, and by the end of the century, the Encyclopaedia Britannica reported that the tomato was “in everyday use” in soups, broths, and as a garnish. They were not common in the ordinary person’s diet, and despite the fact that they were “to be found in great abundance in all our vegetable markets” and “used by all our best chefs” by 1820, they were only grown in gardens “for the singularity of their beauty,” and their use in cooking was synonymous with exotic Italian or Jewish cuisine.
In the 16th century, Portuguese explorers introduced the tomato to India. It was grown for the British from the 18th century onwards. Even today, the Bengali word for it is “Biliti Started,” which means “Foreign Eggplant.” It was then widely embraced due to its suitability for India’s environment, with Uttarakhand serving as one of the primary producers.
John Barker, the British consul in Aleppo from 1799 to 1825, was the first to export the tomato to the Middle East. It is often defined as an ingredient in a cooked dish in nineteenth-century descriptions. It was only consumed “over the last forty years” in 1881, according to the description. The tomato is now a staple of Middle Eastern cuisine, appearing in salads (e.g., Arab salad, Israeli salad, Shirazi salad, and Turkish salad), grilled with kebabs and other foods, and turned into sauces.
Tomatoes were first recorded to be grown in British North America in 1710, when herbalist William Salmon saw them in what is now South Carolina. They may have arrived from the Caribbean. They were planted on several Carolina plantations by the mid-eighteenth century, and possibly in other areas of the Southeast as well. Some people may have tended to believe tomatoes were poisonous at this time, and they were cultivated mostly as ornamental plants rather than as food. Thomas Jefferson, who consumed tomatoes in Paris, returned to America with some plants. Henry Tilden of Iowa and Dr. Hand of Baltimore were among the first tomato breeders.
Alexander W. Livingston is credited for creating various tomato varieties for both home and commercial gardeners. “Half of the main varieties is a result of the Livingstons’ ability to analyze and perpetuate superior content in the tomato,” according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s 1937 yearbook. The Paragon, Livingston’s first tomato variety, was introduced in 1870. He developed the Acme tomato in 1875, and it was said to be the ancestor of much of the tomatoes introduced by him and his rivals for the next twenty-five years.
Livingston’s goal when developing the tomato as a commercial crop was to grow tomatoes that were smooth in contour, uniform in size, and sweet in taste. Livingston invented the paragon in 1870, and tomato culture quickly became a major industry in the county. He ultimately produced over seventeen distinct tomato plant varieties. The crop is now grown in every state in the United States.
Nutritional (Composition) Value of Tomato
Tomatoes are high in vitamins and minerals. 32 calories (kcal), 170.14 g water, 1.58 g protein, 2.2 g fiber, 5.8 g carbohydrate, and 0 g cholesterol are contained in one cup of diced or sliced fresh tomatoes. Tomatoes also contain 18 mg of calcium, 427 mg of potassium, 43 mg of phosphorus, 24.7 mg of vitamin C, and 1499 international units (IU) of vitamin A, among other vitamins and minerals.
Tomatoes also contain alpha-lipoic acid, lycopene, choline, folic acid, beta-carotene, and lutein, among other nutrients and antioxidants. Cooking tomatoes tends to improve the availability of key nutrients including lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, which are carotenoids. Sun-dried tomatoes and raw cherry tomatoes have more lutein and zeaxanthin than stewed tomatoes.
Health Benefits of Tomato
Tomatoes are nutrient-dense plant food. The advantages of eating various fruits and vegetables are many, and tomatoes are no exception. The risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer reduces as the proportion of plant foods in the diet increases. Tomatoes come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and they can be cooked in a variety of ways. Cherry tomatoes, stewed tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, soups, juices, and purees are among them.
The health benefits will differ depending on the type. Cherry tomatoes, for example, contain more beta-carotene than normal tomatoes. High fruit and vegetable consumption has also been related to improved skin and hair quality, increased energy, and weight loss. Obesity and total mortality rate are greatly reduced as fruit and vegetable intake is increased.
Below are some of the most remarkable benefits of tomato:
- Prevents Cancer
- Regulates Blood Pressure
- Reduces Cardiovascular Diseases
- Prevents Diabetes
- Prevents Constipation
- Promotes Eye Health
- Promote Good Skin Health
- Helps during Pregnancy
Tomatoes are high in vitamin C as well as other antioxidants. Tomatoes contain these compounds, which can help to prevent the production of free radicals. Cancer is known to be caused by free radicals. Tomatoes contain a lot of beta-carotene, which helps to prevent prostate cancer tumors from developing. Lycopene is also found in tomatoes. Lycopene is a polyphenol, or plant compound, related to the prevention of one kind of prostate cancer. It’s also what gives tomatoes their distinctive red colour. Tomato products account for 80% of the dietary lycopene absorbed globally. Consumption of beta-carotene also lowers the risk of colon cancer. Consumption of fiber from fruits and vegetables has been linked to a reduced risk of colorectal cancer. Beta-carotene-rich diets can help to protect against prostate cancer.
Regulates Blood Pressure
Maintaining a low sodium level helps to keep blood pressure in check. Increased potassium intake, on the other hand, could be just as significant due to its artery-widening effects. Tomato consumption is also linked to a lower chance of dying from high blood pressure-related causes because of its high potassium and low sodium content.
Reduces Cardiovascular Diseases
Tomatoes are high in fiber, potassium, vitamin C, and choline, all of which are beneficial to heart health. The most significant dietary adjustment that the average person will make to minimize their risk of cardiovascular disease is to increase potassium intake while decreasing sodium intake. Tomatoes contain folate as well. This helps to keep homocysteine levels in check. Homocysteine is an amino acid produced as proteins are broken down. It’s been linked to a higher risk of heart attacks and strokes. The use of folate to lower homocysteine levels lowers one of the risk factors for heart disease. High potassium consumption is linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, but it’s also renowned for shielding muscles from deterioration, maintaining bone mineral density, and lowering the risk of kidney stones.
People with type 1 diabetes who eat a high-fiber diet have lower blood glucose levels, whereas people with type 2 diabetes may have better blood sugar, cholesterol, and insulin levels, according to studies. Around 2 grams (g) of fiber can be found in a cup of cherry tomatoes. The American Diabetes Association advises that women consume around 25 grams of fiber per day and men consume around 38 grams per day.
Consuming foods high in water and fiber, such as tomatoes, can aid hydration and promote regular bowel movements. Tomatoes have a reputation for being a laxative fruit. Fiber contributes weight to the stool and aids in constipation relief. However, excluding fiber from one’s diet has been shown to help with constipation.
Promotes Eye Health
Tomatoes can help shield the eyes from the harmful effects of light. Lycopene, lutein, and beta-carotene are abundant in tomatoes. These are potent antioxidants that have been shown to shield the eyes from light injury, cataract formation, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). People who consume a lot of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which are both found in tomatoes, have a lower chance of neovascular AMD.
Promote Good Skin Health
Collagen is a protein that is found in the skin, hair, nails, and connective tissue, among other things. Vitamin C is needed for the body’s collagen development. Scurvy is caused by a lack of vitamin C. Low vitamin C intake is linked to increased damage from sunlight, pollution, and smoke because vitamin C is a strong antioxidant. This can cause wrinkles, sagging skin, blemishes, and other skin-related health problems.
Helps during Pregnancy
To protect infants from neural tube defects, adequate folate intake is needed before and during pregnancy. The synthetic form of folate is folic acid can be obtained by supplementation, but it can also be increased by lifestyle changes. Although taking a folic acid supplement is advised for pregnant women, tomatoes are a great source of naturally occurring folate. This is true for women who are planning to get pregnant in the near future.