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Promoting Tomatoes





Cool Stuff About Tomatoes!

Did you know the tomato is commonly considered to be the favorite vegetable of the American public? Tomatoes have been cultivated in Mexico for more than 2000 years. While the British thought the tomato was poisonous, the French called it the “apple of love.”

Tomatoes are the best source of a nutrient called lycopene, which may protect against cancer. Tomatoes are also a good source of vitamin A and vitamin C.

Sweet Million, Matt’s Wild Cherry, Juliet, Early Girl, Big Boy, Big Beef and Red Robin are just a few varieties of tomatoes grown in Minnesota. Tomatoes are harvested in Minnesota from mid-July through September.

Tomatoes are a versatile vegetable. Tomatoes can be stuffed, baked, boiled, stewed, pickled, and fried, and are the base for many of your favorite sauces.

Ask your family to pick up some tomatoes at your local farmer’s market or FARM NAME. You can eat them fresh in salads or on sandwiches or can eat them using the recipe in this month’s newsletter. Today at lunch you will have the opportunity to sample tomatoes in FOOD ITEM from FARM NAME/CITY. Try tomatoes today! They are very tasty, not poisonous. We promise!


In [MONTH] your child tried [FOOD ITEM] with locally grown tomatoes from [FARM NAME] in [CITY] . Prepare this delicious recipe with your family and ask your child(ren) if they can answer the following trivia questions.

Trivia Answers

  1. Where were tomatoes first cultivated?
  2. Tomatoes are the richest source of what nutrient? (Hint: This nutrient may protect against some cancers)
  3. What did the French call the tomato?

MS Word version of Newsletter


History and Origin

  • Tomatoes were originally cultivated by the Aztecs of central Mexico and the Incas from the lower Andes on the west coast of Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia as early as 700 AD
  • Europeans were first made aware of the tomato when explorers brought back seed from Mexico and Central America in the 16th century. Tomatoes quickly became popular in the Mediterranean countries but received resistance as they spread north. The British in particular considered the fruit to be beautiful but poisonous. This fear was shared in the American colonies and it was years before the tomato gained widespread acceptance. By the middle of the 19th century, tomatoes were in use across America.


  • Tomatoes are the richest natural source of lycopene, a carotenoid that is also found in pink grapefruit and watermelon, and which seems to reduce the risk of prostate cancer in men.
  • Tomatoes are low in fat and calories, sodium- and cholesterol-free, a good source of vitamin A, and high in vitamin C.
  • Scientists at Cornell University have identified two additional cancer-fighting substances in the tomato: P-coumaric and chlorogenic acids.

Did you know…?

  • Tomatoes were originally thought to be poisonous. In 1820, in defense of the tomato, Col. Robert Gibbon Johnson stood on the steps of the Salem NJ courthouse, and against his doctor's orders, announced to the gathered citizens "To help dispel the tall tales, the fantastic fables that you have been hearing. And to prove to you that it is not poisonous I am going to eat one right now." He then ate a basketful of tomatoes in front of an amazed crowd, and lived!
  • The heaviest tomato ever was 7 lb 12 oz, grown in Oklahoma in 1986.
  • Tomatoes are 95% water.
  • A member of the nightshade family, tomatoes are close cousins with chili peppers, potatoes, and eggplant.
  • The tomato is by definition a fruit because it contains the plant's seeds, although its lack of sweetness puts it in the vegetable category for most eaters.
  • In 1893 as a result of U.S. Supreme Court case Nix vs. Hedden, the Court ruled that the tomato was a vegetable so it could be subject to taxes.
  • Except for Italian, which calls it “Pomodoro,” most European languages have some similarity to the English name "tomato:"
  • German = tomate
    Dutch = tomaat
    French = tomate
    Danish = tomat
    Spanish = tomate

How to Eat Tomatoes

  • A versatile vegetable for cooking, tomatoes can be prepared stuffed, baked, boiled, stewed, pickled, and fried, and are the base for many sauces.
  • Eat tomatoes raw after washing and removing the stem end; either plain or in salads or sandwiches.
  • Puree tomatoes and serve in sauces, soups, pizza, omelets and casseroles.
  • Make fresh salsas, pizza sauce or spaghetti sauces.

The above information was compiled from:


Tasting Poster (634 K PDF)

3-Column Poster (460 K PDF)

Index Card (448 K PDF)


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tomatoes in bins Bins of Tomatoes photo by Kent Lorentzen Grand Rapids Farmers' Market
red, ripe tomatoes Red, Ripe Tomatoes photo by Kent Lorentzen Grand Rapids Farmers' Market
tomatoes in flats Flats of Red Tomatoes photo by Kent Lorentzen Grand Rapids Farmers' Market
tomatoes on table Rows of Tomatoes photo by Kent Lorentzen Grand Rapids Farmers' Market
heirloom tomatoes Multi-colored Heirloom Tomatoes photo by Kent Lorentzen Grand Rapids Farmers' Market
heirloom tomatoes Variety of Heirloom Tomatoes photo by Kent Lorentzen Grand Rapids Farmers' Market
cherry tomatoes Cherry Tomatoes photo by Brett Olson Renewing the Countryside
tomatoes on vine Tomatoes on the Vine photo by Brett Olson
  • The Tomato Zone - This website is for children 5-16 years old. Discover facts, play interactive games, and experiment growing tomatoes for yourself.
  • Growing Tomatoes from Seed
  • Tomato Overview Lesson — This lesson will make students aware of how pumpkins, tomatoes, and potatoes grow and how they are used. At the end of the lesson, students will be able to describe where some foods made of tomatoes and pumpkins come from, as well as identify that potatoes grow underground. They will learn new words relating to tomatoes and potatoes, and compile simple sentences about tomatoes, potatoes, and foods made from them.
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