So much has been said about the amazing health attributes of the tomato, that if you have not heard anything about it in the last few years, you have probably just landed from Mars! Aside from being rich in vitamins C, A and K, tomatoes contain lycopene - a carotenoid with potent antioxidant and cancer-fighting properties. Curiously enough, cooked tomatoes are a better source of lycopene than raw ones, and lycopene is best absorbed when they are cooked in a little olive oil, defeating theories that raw is better than cooked, and frying is bad for you.
- Technically, the tomato is a fruit because the edible part of the plant contains the seeds (a definition of vegetable is the edible stems, leaves, and plant root). However, in 1863 a Supreme Court in the US ruled that tomatoes were to be considered vegetables, hence the controversy ever since.
- Tomatoes were first cultivated in 700 AD by Aztecs and Incas. Explorers returning from Mexico introduced the tomato into Europe, where it was first mentioned in 1556. The French called it "the apple of love," the Germans "the apple of paradise."
- During the early nineteenth century, American cookbooks warned that tomatoes should be cooked for a minimum of three hours before eating to eliminate the raw taste. People were cautioned not to eat tomatoes raw because they were still suspected of it being poisonous. It was only in 1820 when Robert Gibbon Johnson stood on the courthouse steps in New Jersey and ate a raw tomato in front the assembled townsfolk that tomatoes were pronounced to be safe.
- There are at least 10,000 varieties of tomatoes in the world.