The tomato is recognised, as a vegetable though should be correctly termed a berry fruit in true botanical classification. A member of the Solanaceae family and botanically named Solanum lycopersicum (syn. Lycopersicon esculentum) the tomato is closely related to Potatoes, Deadly nightshade and Nicotinia.

Tomatoes originated in South America and were later introduced to Mexico where it was thought to have domesticated there, though the exact date is unknown. Tomatoes are very common in Italy and it is often thought they originated there when in fact Tomatoes were introduced into Italy during the 1530’s. They didn’t make it into Italian food until the 18th Century as it was thought tomatoes were poisonous.

Tomatoes vary in size from small slightly larger than blackcurrant sized varieties through the typical salad cherry tomato to larger plate and sandwich varieties. Tomatoes also come in extra large sauce and paste types.

Nutritionally, tomatoes are most recognised as a rich source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Folate. They also contain Vitamin E and B Group Vitamins though these are negligible amounts compared to their Vitamin A and Vitamin C content.

Tomatoes are a good source of potassium and Manganese. They do contain small amounts of Iron, copper, zinc and phosphorous.

Heirloom tomato varieties are common with home gardeners. These tomatoes carry traits from original domesticated varieties throughout history. Commercially grown tomatoes are bred for uniform size and colour while heirloom tomatoes can vary widely in shape and size within a similar variety.

Tomatoes are not exceptionally high in nutrients but their Vitamin A and Vitamin C content make them an ideal addition to a diet lacking in these vitamins. They also add a lot of flavour to dishes and act as filler in many recipes.

Tomatoes can be used in the diet in many ways:

- Tomatoes are delicious eaten straight from the garden. As a kid I would often raid my dads cherry tomato trees. They are excellent added in kids lunch boxes or tossed through salads. Larger tomatoes are excellent sliced fresh on sandwiches.

- Tomatoes have long been associated with Italian cooking in pasta sauces, pizza’s and Lasagne. Toasted Cheese and Tomato sandwiches are common in Australia. Fried red and green tomatoes are common around the world.

- Commercially grown Tomatoes are largely made into pastes and sauces. Commercially available bolognaise sauces make cooking past at home quick and easy.

Tomatoes are easily grown from seed, they are common in most home vegetable gardens. There are climbing (or tree) varieties that can reach up to 2 metres in height. Smaller bush varieties will reach from half to 1 metre. I have had much success with several heirloom varieties including Napoli Paste, Amish Paste, Speckled Roman, Grosse Lisse and several mixed varieties.

Author's Bio: 

Eric J. Smith is an Experienced Horticulturalist with a keen interest in Organic Gardening. Eric's interest in Organics also shows in his interest in Organic Nutrition and Organic Skincare. More information can be found on these by visiting his websites or Subscribe to Eric's FREE Health and Organic Newsletters via these websites.