|The tomato is the world's most popular fruit. And yes, just like the brinjal and the pumpkin,botanicallyspeaking it is a fruit, not a vegetable. More than 60 million tons of tomatoes are produced per year, 16 million tons more than the second most popular fruit, the banana. Apples are the third most popular (36 million tons), then oranges (34 million tons) and watermelons (22 million tons).
Tomatoes were first cultivated in 700 AD byAztecsandIncas. 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."
Tomatoes are rich in vitamins A and C andfibre, and arecholesterolfree. An average size tomato (148 gram, or 5 oz) boasts only 35 calories. Furthermore, new medical research suggests that the consumption oflycopene- the stuff that makes tomatoes red - may prevent cancer. Lycopene is part of the family of pigments calledcarotenoids, which are natural compounds that create the colours of fruits and vegetables. For example,beta caroteneis the orange pigment in carrots. As with essential aminoacids, they are not produced by the human body. Lycopene is the most powerfulantioxidantin the carotenoid family and, with vitamins C and E, protect us from the free radicals that degrade many parts of the body.
The scientific term for the common tomato is lycopersicon lycopersicum, which mean "wolf peach." It is a cousin of the eggplant, red pepper, ground cherry, potato, and the highly toxicbelladonna, also known as thenightshade or solanaccae. There are more than 10,000 varieties of tomatoes.
Tomatoes are used in many food product, including, of course, tomato sauce (ketchup),pastaand pizza. According to a Steel Packing Council survey of 1997, 68% of chefs use canned tomatoes for convenience, quality and flavouring.