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Tomato Trivia

Still wondering if tomatoes are vegetables or fruits? Here are some fun (and educational) facts.

By Sharon Tanenbaum and Ashley Tate
tomatoes on tableMonica Buck


  • For starters, here's how to pick a good one: Look for one that is blemish-free, firm to the touch, and noticeably fragrant. It should seem heavy for its size and give slightly under pressure.
  • Tomatoes are native to South America but spread to Mexico, where European explorers discovered the fruit in the late 1400s and took it home.
  • Believing tomatoes had aphrodisiac qualities, the French called them pommes d'amour (or "love apples") from the 1600s until the modern French word tomate became more commonly used.
  • Tomatoes were thought to be poisonous when Robert Gibbon Johnson brought them to Salem, New Jersey, from Europe in the early 1800s. To disprove that notion, Johnson, a wealthy local landowner, ate an entire basket of them in front of a shocked crowd on the courthouse steps on September 26, 1820.
  • A tomato is technically a fruit because it is a ripened ovary of a plant. But for trade purposes a tomato is considered a vegetable. The identity crisis stems from an 1893 Supreme Court ruling that classified the tomato as a vegetable so it could be taxed under tariff law.
  • The 1978 low-budget cult movie Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! inspired three sequels, the first of which starred George Clooney.
  • The largest tomato on record―a whopping seven pounds, 12 ounces―was picked in Edmond, Oklahoma, in 1986.
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