5 Things you may or may not know about tomatoes
- The scientific name for tomatoes is Lycopersicon lycopersicum which means “Wolf Peach”!
- People used to believe tomatoes were poisonous.
For about 200 years until the end of the 19th century, some wealthy Europeans avoided eating tomatoes which were believed to cause sickness and death; earning tomatoes the nickname “poisonous apple”. But the problem wasn’t the tomatoes it was the pewter plates they served their food on, causing people to get lead poisoning. Luckily people figured this out and tomatoes have gone on to become a staple food cupboard item.
- Cooked tomatoes are better for you.
Tomatoes contain a fat-soluble pigment called lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage. Lycopene is more efficiently absorbed when it’s been heated or processed (e.g. blended). It’s also what makes tomatoes red!
- Tomatoes are not from Italy!
They might be an essential ingredient in pizza and pasta but tomatoes didn’t originate in Italy. They were first cultivated in Central and South America by the Aztecs and the Incas, as far back as 700AD. Tomatoes didn’t arrive in Europe until the 16th century.
- Tomatoes – a Fruit or a Vegetable? Or maybe both…
Scientifically speaking tomatoes are fruits. But in 1893, the US Supreme Court ruled (for tax purposes) that tomatoes could legally be classed as vegetables. So fruit or vegetable they’re both correct.