Food Guts - Ingredient Information

Ingredient Lookup


When In Season:

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    Wisconsin: July (late) - September (early)

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Tomato on Wikipedia:

This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding reliable references. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (August 2008) For other uses, see Tomato (disambiguation). Tomato Cross-section and full view of a ripe tomato Scientific classification Kingdom: Plantae (unranked): Angiosperms (unranked): Eudicots Order: Solanales Family: Solanaceae Genus: Solanum Species: S. lycopersicum Binomial name Solanum lycopersicum L. Synonyms

Lycopersicon lycopersicum Lycopersicon esculentum[1]

The tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) is a herbaceous, usually sprawling plant in the nightshade family that is typically cultivated for its edible fruit. Savory in flavor (and accordingly termed a vegetable; see below), the fruit of most varieties ripens to a distinctive red color. Tomato plants typically reach to 1–3 metres (3–10 ft) in height, and have a weak, woody stem that often vines over other plants. The leaves are 10–25 centimetres (4–10 in) long, odd pinnate, with 5–9 leaflets on petioles,[2] each leaflet up to 8 centimetres (3 in) long, with a serrated margin; both the stem and leaves are densely glandular-hairy. The flowers are 1–2 centimetres (0.4–0.8 in) across, yellow, with five pointed lobes on the corolla; they are borne in a cyme of 3–12 together. It is a perennial, often grown outdoors in temperate climates as an annual.



The tomato is native to South America. Genetic evidence shows that the progenitors of tomatoes were herbaceous green plants with small green fruit with a center of diversity in the highlands of Peru.[3][4] One species, Solanum lycopersicum, was transported to Mexico where it was grown and consumed by prehistoric humans. The exact date of domestication is not known. The first domesticated tomato may have been a little yellow fruit, similar in size to Cherry tomatoes,[citation needed] grown by the Aztecs of Central Mexico. Aztec writings mention tomatoes were prepared with peppers, corn and salt[citation needed].

Many historians[who?] believe that the Spanish explorer Cortez may have been the first to transfer the small yellow tomato to Europe after he captured the Aztec city of Tenochtítlan, now Mexico City, in 1521. Others[who?] believe Christopher Columbus, an Italian working for the Spanish monarchy, was the first European to take back the tomato, as early as 1493. The earliest discussion of the tomato in European literature appeared in a herbal written in 1544 by Pietro Andrea Mattioli, an Italian physician and botanist, who named it pomo d’oro, golden apple.

Aztecs and other peoples in the region used the fruit in their cooking; it was being cultivated in southern Mexico and probably other areas by 500 BC. It is thought that the Pueblo people believed that those who witnessed the ingestion of tomato seeds were blessed with powers of divination.[5] The large, lumpy tomato, a mutation from a smoother, smaller fruit, originated in Mesoamerica, and may be direct ancestor of some modern cultivated tomatoes.[4]

Spanish distribution

After the Spanish colonization of the Americas, the Spanish distributed the tomato throughout their colonies in the Caribbean. They also took it to the Philippines, from where it spread to southeast Asia and then the entire Asian continent. The Spanish also brought the tomato to Europe. It grew easily in Mediterranean climates, and cultivation began in the 1540s. It was probably eaten shortly after it was introduced, and was certainly being used as food by the early 1600s in Spain. The earliest discovered cookbook with tomato recipes was published in Naples in 1692, though the author had apparently obtained these recipes from Spanish sources[citation needed]. However, in certain areas of Italy, such as Florence, the fruit was used solely as tabletop decoration before it was incorporated into the local cuisine in the late 17th or early 18th century.


Tomatoes on display at Borough Market in London, England.

Tomatoes were not grown in England until the 1590s[4]:17. One of the earliest cultivators was John Gerard, a barber-surgeon.[4]:17 Gerard's Herbal, published in 1597 and largely plagiarized from continental sources[citation needed], is also one of the earliest discussions of the tomato in England. Gerard knew that the tomato was eaten in Spain and Italy[4]:17. Nonetheless, he believed that it was poisonous[4]:17 (tomato leaves and stems actually contain poisonous glycoalkaloids, but the fruit is safe). Gerard's views were influential, and the tomato was considered unfit for eating (though not necessarily poisonous) for many years in Britain and its North American colonies.[4]:17

By the mid-1700s, tomatoes were widely eaten in Britain; and before the end of that century, the Encyclopædia Britannica stated that the tomato was ``in daily use`` in soups, broths, and as a garnish. In Victorian times, cultivation reached an industrial scale in glasshouses, most famously in Worthing. Pressure for housing land in the 1930s to 1960s saw the industry move west to Littlehampton, and to the market gardens south of Chichester. Over the past 15 years, the British tomato industry has declined as more competitive imports from Spain and the Netherlands have reached the supermarkets[citation needed].

Middle East

The tomato was introduced to cultivation in the Middle East by John Barker, British consul in Aleppo c. 1799 – c. 1825[6][7]. Nineteenth century descriptions of its consumption are uniformly as an ingredient in a cooked dish. In 1881 it is described as only eaten in the region, “within the last forty years.”[8]

The tomato entered Iran through two separate routes[citation needed]. One route was through Turkey and Armenia and the second route was through the Qajar royal family's frequent travels to France. The early name used for tomato in Iran was ``Armani Badenjan`` (Armenian Eggplant). Currently, the name used for tomato in Iran is ``Gojeh Farangi`` (Foreign Plum).

North America

The earliest reference to tomatoes being grown in British North America is from 1710, when herbalist William Salmon reported seeing them in what is today South Carolina[4]:25. They may have been introduced from the Caribbean. By the mid-18th century, they were cultivated on some Carolina plantations, and probably in other parts of the Southeast as well. It is possible that some people continued to think tomatoes were poisonous at this time; and in general, they were grown more as ornamental plants than as food. Thomas Jefferson, who ate tomatoes in Paris, sent some seeds back to America[4]:28.

Because of their longer growing season for this heat-loving crop, several states in the US Sun Belt became major tomato-producers, particularly Florida and California. In California, tomatoes are grown under irrigation for both the fresh fruit market and for canning and processing. The University of California, Davis (UC Davis) became a major center for research on the tomato. The C.M. Rick Tomato Genetics Resource Center at UC Davis is a genebank of wild relatives, monogenic mutants and miscellaneous genetic stocks of tomato.[9] The Center is named for the late Dr. Charles M. Rick, a pioneer in tomato genetics research.[10] Research on processing tomatoes is also conducted by the California Tomato Research Institute in Escalon, California.

Cultivation and uses

A basket of tomatoes displayed in a Singapore supermarket.

The tomato is now grown worldwide for its edible fruits, with thousands of cultivars having been selected with varying fruit types, and for optimum growth in differing growing conditions. Cultivated tomatoes vary in size from tomberries, about 5mm in diameter, through cherry tomatoes, about the same 1–2 centimetres (0.4–0.8 in) size as the wild tomato, up to beefsteak tomatoes 10 centimetres (4 in) or more in diameter. The most widely grown commercial tomatoes tend to be in the 5–6 centimetres (2.0–2.4 in) diameter range. Most cultivars produce red fruit; but a number of cultivars with yellow, orange, pink, purple, green, black, or white fruit are also available. Multicolored and striped fruit can also be quite striking. Tomatoes grown for canning and sauces are often elongated, 7–9 centimetres (3–4 in) long and 4–5 centimetres (1.6–2.0 in) diameter; they are known as plum tomatoes, and have a lower water content. Roma-type tomatoes are important cultivars in the Sacramento Valley[11].

Tomatoes are one of the most common garden fruits in the United States and, along with zucchini, have a reputation for outproducing the needs of the grower.

As in most sectors of agriculture, there is increasing demand in developed countries for organic tomatoes, as well as heirloom tomatoes, to make up for flavor and texture faults in commercial tomatoes[11]. Quite a few seed merchants and banks provide a large selection of heirloom seeds. Tomato seeds are occasionally organically produced as well, but only a small percentage of organic crop area is grown with organic seed[citation needed]. The definition of an heirloom tomato is vague, but unlike commercial hybrids, all are self-pollinators who have bred true for 40 years or more.[11]

About 130 million tons of tomatoes were produced in the world in 2008. China, the largest producer, accounted for about one quarter of the global output, followed by United States and Turkey. For one variety, known as plum or processing tomatoes, California accounts for 90% of U.S. production and 35% of world production.[12]

According to FAOSTAT, the top producers of tomatoes (in tonnes) in 2008 were[13]:

Top Tomato Producers — 2008 (in tonnes)