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Probably the world’s favourite fruit, even if it is traditionally eaten as a vegetable, the tomato is a key part of countless recipes across the globe.
While it’s thought of as a quintessentially Italian food, the tomato traces its roots back to the indigenous peoples of South America and was introduced to Europe by Spanish colonists in the 16th Century.
In 2019, nearly 181 million tonnes of tomatoes were grown around the world.
A branching vine that can grow up to 2m tall if supported. Vines and leaves are covered with short fine hairs. The plant displays small, five-petaled, yellow flowers, which will produce green berries when pollinated. These berries ripen into a variety of colours, including red, yellow, orange and purple.
The town of Buñol in Spain is home to the annual La Tomatina festival, a large tomato fight between participants.
Food and drink
Tomatoes are a key part of cuisines across the world, and are eaten as part of sauces, soups, and salads.
In particular, tomatoes form a key part of European cuisine, such as in Spanish and Italian sauces.
Tomatoes are a source of vitamin C, which is important in maintaining healthy cells in the body.
Did you know?
As members of the nightshade family (Solanceae), tomatoes were thought to be poisonous when brought to Europe and grown only as ornamental plants
Botanically, tomatoes are berries and considered fruit. However, in 1893 the US Supreme Court defined them as vegetables for tax purposes
The first genetically-engineered food to be sold in shops was the Flavr Savr tomato, which was modified to extend its shelf life
Where in the world?
Widely cultivated, as well as found in grasslands, woodlands, marshland and open plains.
Find it in our gardens
A botanic garden in southwest London with the world’s most diverse living plant collection.