Tomatoes originated in South America and spread to the new world at the time the U.S. was colonized. The word 'tomato' comes from the Spanish word 'tomate' and they were cultivated as early as 700 A.D. by the Inca and Aztec Indians. Though considered a vegetable, tomatoes are botanically a fruit and they belong to the Solanaceae or nightshade family. There are some 7,500 varieties and some are perennials in their native habitat but most varieties in North America are grown as annuals. Tomatoes are prized for their beautiful bright red color but they can also be pink, green, purple, black, white, yellow and multicolored. Sizes vary from tiny cherry tomatoes to plum-shaped roma tomatoes and large round beefsteaks. Tomatoes are either determinate, meaning they fruit once a season, or indeterminate, and bear fruit continually throughout the season. Tomatoes are highly nutritious, providing vitamins such as lycopene and vitamins A and C. They are one of the most popular vegetables used worldwide in everything from drinks to soups, salads, sauces and condiments.
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