The tomato plant is an annual vegetable that produces tomatoes from early summer to late fall, depending on the variety. The fruit of the tomato plant can be eaten fresh or cooked and used in main dishes or sauces.
Tomato Tip: Do not refrigerate tomatoes! They retain their flavor and ripen correctly at room temperature. Once ripe, use tomatoes within 3 days.
This vegetable is actually a berry, and is though to have come first from the Andes mountains, and the present name is close to the Indian name. It belongs to the nightshade family, along with potatoes, eggplants, peppers and tobacco.
In Europe, where it was taken by the Spanish, the tomato was grown only as a ornamental for many years. Eating tomatoes was considered certain to prove fatal. Even in North America, it has been only in the past 150 years that people mustered enough courage to try eating them. That all changed starting on the courthouse steps in Salem, New Jersey, at twelve o'clock noon on September 26, 1820, when Colonel Robert G. Johnson ate not one, but a basketful of tomatoes. He not only lived, he wasn't a bit ill following his demonstration.
In 1893, the Supreme Court ruled that the tomato must be considered a vegetable, even though, botanically, it is a fruit. Because vegetables and fruits were subject to different import duties, it was necessary to define it as one or the other. So, tomatoes were declared to be a vegetable given that it was commonly eaten as one. (Source: The Packer, 6/9/90)
Tomatoes were popularized in this country when the Creoles in New Orleans included them in their popular gumbos and jambalayas. (Source: The California Tomato Board