Tomato ‘Gigantomo’ F1 Hybrid from T&M

Tomatoes come in all shapes, colours and sizes
Image source: Tomato ‘Gigantomo’ F1 Hybrid from T&M

Is there anything more satisfying than a perfectly ripe, homegrown tomato, freshly picked and warm from the sun? Tomato seeds are easy to grow and a couple of tomato plants will produce hundreds of fruits to keep you supplied from mid-summer right through to autumn.

If you grow tomatoes, you’ll know they soon become a passion. But how much do you know about them? You probably won’t be surprised to learn that a tomato is a fruit. But here are five interesting tomato facts that you may not have come across.

1. Tomatoes originated in the Andes

Tomatoes growing in the Andes

Tomatoes growing in the Andes mountains
Image source: JHON JAMES GRACIA / Shutterstock

Tomatoes were first cultivated by the Aztecs and Incas, dating back as early as 700 AD. The Aztec name for them translates to ‘plump thing with a navel’ – and they were grown for decoration rather than food. They were first brought to Europe in the mid 1500s.

2. You can call it a ‘wolf peach’

Tomato ‘Gourmandia’ F1 Hybrid from T&M

Some tomatoes are certainly delicious enough to wolf down a peach!
Image source: Tomato ‘Gourmandia’ F1 Hybrid from T&M – vegetable of the year 2020

The scientific name for tomatoes is Lycopersicon lycopersicum, which means wolf peach! At least it sounds better than ‘plump thing with a navel’.

3. People used to believe that tomatoes were poisonous

Multicoloured tomatoes in a metal bowl

Don’t serve tomatoes on a pewter plate!
Image source: Jane Rix / Shutterstock

In the 1700s, some Europeans became wary of tomatoes because aristocrats were getting sick after eating them – even dying. The problem wasn’t the tomatoes however, but the pewter plates on which they were served. Highly acidic foods such as tomatoes may leach when touching certain metals, like pewter. Thus the problem was lead poisoning, falsely attributed to tomatoes – or ‘poisonous apples’, as they became nicknamed.

4. Tomatoes were originally yellow

Tomato ‘Limoncito’ F1 Hybrid from T&M

Tomatoes weren’t always red!
Image source: Tomato ‘Limoncito’ F1 Hybrid from T&M

The first tomatoes weren’t red, but small and yellow – which explains the Italian word given to them when they were brought to Europe: pomi d’oro, which translates to ‘yellow apples’. Tomatoes are now available in a variety of colours: red, orange, yellow, pink, green, purple and even black.

5. There are 10,000 varieties of tomato worldwide

Multicoloured tomatoes lying on a wooden board

Which tomato variety will you choose next?
Image source: Shebeko / Shutterstock

What are your favourite tomato varieties? You might know the ever popular ‘Gardener’s Delight’, ‘Moneymaker’ and ‘Tumbling Tom Red’ – but did you know there are 10,000 varieties of tomato across the globe? Some of the less familiar names include ‘Midnight Snack’, ‘Orange Beauty’, ‘Oh Happy Day’ and ‘Black Russian’ But you could eat a different variety every day and still not get through them after 27 years!

If you want to learn more about growing and caring for tomatoes, visit our tomato hub page, which links to all kinds of growing and care help and advice. And tell us what unusual tomato facts you’ve come across! Let us know on our Facebook page.

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