5 fun facts about tomatoes

5 fun facts about tomatoes

Tomatoes (and their canned varieties) are one of the most versatile produce items available, and while they are beloved by many, there may be some things that you didn’t know about them. From their origin to classification, here are some fun facts about tomatoes.

5 fun facts about tomatoes

Tomatoes originated in South America.

Researchers have recently discovered a tomato plant that originated 80,000 years ago. By using genetic testing, they were able to trace it back to Ecuador and determined it was a wild variety that produced a cherry sized fruit. Around 7,000 years ago the plant was domesticated and it evolved into the tomatoes we are familiar with today (1).

Tomatoes are technically a fruit.

While nobody would ever claim that tomatoes are as sweet a melon or berry, botanically they are classified as a fruit. Tomatoes contain seeds which puts them in the fruit category, along with cucumbers, peppers, squash, and many more. However, to make things more confusing, in 1893 the US Supreme Court ruled that they are in fact a vegetable (2).

There are more than 10,000 varieties of tomatoes.

Beyond the various sizes (grape, cherry, plum, and beefsteak), there are many different varieties that are grown in a wide range of conditions. Heirloom tomatoes have been around for a long time and are considered pure (ie. no crossbreeding). Others have been crossbred to grow in small spaces or regions that have shorter growing seasons (3).

Tomatoes aren’t always red.

With so many varieties, it should come as no surprise that there would be different colors of tomatoes. They can be yellow, purple, green, orange, or white. In fact, some of the first tomatoes to arrive in Europe were a yellow variety that were referred to as golden apples (3).

Tomatoes have been to space.

Scientists sent tomato seeds to the International Space Station to grow in the Advanced Plant Habitat. They wanted to determine if they could grow and thrive for longer space missions. Along with this study, NASA scientists created a program where students can grow seeds that have been to space and report their findings back to the researchers (4).

Can’t get enough of tomatoes? Check out some of these recipes: 

Walnut and Mushroom Ragu
Sausage Tortellini Soup
Huevos Rancheros
Greek Style Braised Eggplant


  1. The history of tomatoes: How a tropical became a global crop. University of Illinois Extension. (2022). Retrieved from https://extension.illinois.edu/blogs/garden-scoop/2020-07-25-history-tomatoes-how-tropical-became-global-crop.
  2. Is a Tomato a Fruit or a Vegetable?. The Spruce Eats. (2022). Retrieved from https://www.thespruceeats.com/tomato-vegetable-or-fruit-1807061.
  3. Vegetable Tomato Varieties. GardenersNet.Com. Retrieved from https://www.gardenersnet.com/vegetable/tomatovarieties.htm.
  4. Astronauts might soon grow SPACE tomatoes. Phys.org. Retrieved from https://phys.org/news/2019-04-astronauts-space-tomatoes.html.
Why Buying USA-Grown Tomato Products Matters

Why Buying USA-Grown Tomato Products Matters

Why Buying USA-Grown Tomato Products Matters

Where our food comes from has a huge impact, not only on the quality of the food we eat, but on our local economy and the farmers who grow our food. Learn more about why buying USA-grown tomato products matters with this informative blog.

Every visit to the grocery store or a restaurant is a chance for you to voice which products and companies you want to support. We vote with our food dollars. Do you want organic, less sugar, more flavors or lower prices? Your votes are tabulated through your purchases and ultimately your options/quality of products will improve. What about the country of origin? Why should this matter to a busy shopper who is just trying to put food on the table? Because where our food comes from has a huge impact, not only on the quality of the food we eat, but on our local economy and the farmers who grow our food.

Know what you’re getting! 

In a recent documentary “Empire of ‘Red Gold” the filmmaker set out to learn about the tomato products industry globally. He went to China, Italy, and California, the three largest growers of processed tomatoes. In China, he found pollution, terrible worker conditions, fraud and corruption with surprisingly similar issues in Italy. In fact, the legitimacy of so-called “San Marzano” tomato products exported to the U.S. has been often questioned. The issue is more well known regarding imported Olive Oil but is very similar. This has even been called out by the Italians themselves, who have been quoted as saying that as much as 95% of the “San Marzano” tomatoes being imported to America are not actually from the San Marzano Region at all. Questions abound about what is being added and where the tomatoes really come from. Indeed, in the documentary Empire of Red Gold, they found Chinese canned tomatoes being shipped to Italy and then being relabeled as Italian. When you buy American-grown canned tomatoes and tomato products, you can be confident that standards of sustainability, worker justice, safety, and over-all proud production practices are followed.


Everyone has heard the lore of “San Marzano” tomatoes from Italy. The celebrities on cooking shows or online often recommend them, but why? In many blind taste tests the USA-grown tomatoes are crowned the winner. People are often surprised by this, but it just comes down to marketing. So, like all things, it’s important to question the hype. You may favor one brand of tomato products over another—often it’s because you may have grown up with your grandma making “Sunday gravy” with that brand, but discover for yourself your own favorite brand. It’s important to not fall prey to the marketing hype or some celebrity that says you need to pay more for tomatoes shipped across the globe when the world’s best tomatoes are grown in our very own country. When the Bon Appétit Test Kitchen set out to make the perfect pizza sauce, they were SHOCKED when they discovered that the USA grown tomato product they tested far outshined any of the 10+ imported “San Marzano” canned tomatoes.


Global Impact: 

Surveys show that more than half of Americans consider sustainability when making food purchases. So, as we continue to learn more about the importance of sustainability and the global environmental footprint associated with our food choices, it emphasizes the urgency of purchasing foods that are produced locally, rather than those grown on the opposite side of the globe. Foods that are produced far away and are transported long distances produce a higher carbon footprint, which impacts climate change. Just think of how much fossil fuel it requires to ship tomato products from Italy or China, compared to simply purchasing products that are grown in the United States. Indeed, the sunny climate and rich soil in many parts of America are well suited for producing tomatoes, which is why they may be grown in family-owned farms with lower agricultural inputs than many other locations. It’s greener to purchase USA-grown tomatoes than fancy imported tomatoes, not to mention it’s better for your pocketbook.

Local Impact with USA-Grown Tomato Products: 

So, now you know how to read beyond marketing myths, actual taste differences, and global impact. But keep in mind what really matters the most: USA farmers. Right now the farmers that grow our food are struggling with global trade wars, tariffs, and increased costs up and down the supply chain. The people who get hit the hardest are the thousands of family farms and the workers that they employ, and the local economies built around agriculture that struggle to make a living feeding America. When you make your choice at the grocery store, you essentially decide who you will support: Either American farms and the communities they support, or foreign countries with questionable oversight, food safety, worker and health regulations, and often an inferior product.


When you buy USA-grown tomato products, this is who you’re supporting:

So when you’re making decisions for your family, going out to eat or picking out which canned tomato to buy, or ready to use marinara sauces on the retail shelf, frozen pizzas, lasagna in the freezer section, ketchup, salsa, etc remember the American families that are growing this food and decide who you want to support. Do the right thing! Buy local, delicious, USA-grown tomato products.


Healthy Skin Starts with…Tomatoes?

Healthy Skin Starts with…Tomatoes?

Could the secret to glowing, healthy skin be sitting in your kitchen pantry? Read on to learn more about what science has to say about lycopene and skin health.

Canned (and jarred) tomatoes are full of bioactive compounds such as polyphenols, carotenoids (like lycopene), and other vitamins. While some can be isolated and taken as a supplement, they are most effective when they come directly from foods. In their most natural form, the compounds work together, and have been shown to protect and promote healthy skin (1).

Lycopene has antioxidative properties, and while tomatoes contain a high concentration of this carotenoid, heating them during canning increases the bioavailability. In the body, the highest concentration of lycopene is found in the skin tissues, and studies have shown that regular consumption of lycopene rich foods such as tomato products can increase the serum lycopene levels as well as procollagen I. These studies also indicated a decrease in mitochondrial DNA damage (1). Beyond lycopene, tomatoes also contain vitamins A, C, and E, which decrease inflammation and protect from UV light.

Looking for ways to get that healthy glow with tomato products? Check out these recipes: 

Greek Style Braised Eggplant
Crockpot Chicken Burrito Bowl
One Pan Chicken Cacciatore


  1. Fam, V., Charoenwoodhipong, P., Sivamani, R., Holt, R., Keen, C., & Hackman, R. (2022). Plant-Based Foods for Skin Health: A Narrative Review. Journal Of The Academy Of Nutrition And Dietetics, 122(3), 614-629. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2021.10.024