‘TOMATO’- A FRUIT OR VEGETABLE

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‘Solanum Lycopersicum’, commonly know as tomato plants originated in South America and Central America. The language Nahuati used by Aztecs gave it the word ‘tomati’, which in turn gave rise to the Spanish word ‘tomate’, and from there the English word ‘tomato’ was derived. Actually, after the Spanish came in contact with Aztecs, they brought tomato plants to Europe, and from there in the 16th century, tomatoes were introduced to other parts of European-Colonised parts of the world.

Tomato reached India in the 16th century, through Portuguese explorers — and, later in the 18th century onwards it was grown for the British. As tomato came in India from a foreign land, even today in Bengal it is named as “vilaayti begun”, meaning “foreign egg plant”. Indian climate is best suited for growing tomato— India produces fifty-three varieties of tomatoes, where the State of Uttarakhand is one of the main producers of tomato.

Talking chemically about tomato, it has ten types of organic acids, and they are: Malic, Pyruvic, Lactic, Acetic, Citric, Pyroglutamic, Succinic, Citramalic, Fumaric, and t-aconiti.

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Taking over the debate, ‘tomato is a fruit or vegetable’— Scientists will botanically describe it as a fruit—a berry which consists of ovary with its seeds — However as a culinary it has a much lower sugar content, and typically tomatoes are served in the main course of a meal, or as part of salads – and, not included in dessert, so it is a vegetable. Actually, the U. S. Tariff Laws in 1887 imposed duty on vegetables, and it raised eye-brows over tomato’s status: ‘fruit or vegetable’ — this became a matter of legal importance — on 10th May, 1893 the U. S. Supreme Court declared that ‘the tomato is a vegetable’, and settled this controversy. Well, holding of this case applies only to the interpretation of the Tariff of 1883, and the honourable court did not reclassify the tomato for Botonical, or any other purposes.

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Eating tomatoes is: good for the skin, hair, heart, and bones; activates digestion, works on immunity, and helps to burn fat. Lycopene in tomatoes is reported to control the growth of cancer cells mainly of prostate, colorectal and stomach cancer — cooking of tomatoes increases lycopene production in tomatoes, so tomato-curry or tomato soup is best for health. Tomato is a great anti-oxidant, and further, regular eating of tomatoes can repair damages caused by smoking – also it maintains healthy blood pressure, and reduces blood-glucose in people with diabetes.

Finally, one note to remind everyone that tomatoes are in the top ten list of fruits and vegetables containing pesticide residue —organically grown tomatoes have reduced level of pesticides — but, wash well before eating any tomatoes.

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