Full and cross-section of a ripe supermarket tomatoA variety of heirloom tomatoes.Tomato plants in the gardenYoung tomato plant
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4 Tomato Plants

The tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) is a plant in the Solanaceae or nightshade family, as are its close cousins tobacco, chili peppers, potato, and avocado. The tomato is native to Central, South, and southern North America from Mexico to Argentina. more...

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It is a perennial, often grown outdoors in temperate climates as an annual, typically reaching to 1–3 m (3 to 10 ft) in height, with a weak, woody stem that often vines over other plants. The leaves are 10–25 cm long, odd pinnate, with 5–9 leaflets on petioles, each leaflet up to 8 cm long, with a serrated margin; both the stem and leaves are densely glandular-hairy. The flowers are 1–2 cm across, yellow, with five pointed lobes on the corolla; they are borne in a cyme of 3–12 together. The word tomato derives from a word in the Nahuatl language, tomatl. The specific name, lycopersicum, means "wolf-peach" (compare the related species S. lycocarpum, whose scientific name means "wolf-fruit", common name "wolf-apple").

History and distribution

Early history

According to Andrew F Smith's The Tomato in America, the tomato probably originated in the highlands of the west coast of South America. Smith notes there is no evidence the tomato was cultivated or even eaten in Peru before the Spanish arrived, while other researchers have pointed out that many other fruits in continuous cultivation in Peru are not present in the very limited historical record.

There is a competing hypothesis that says the plant, like the word "tomato", originated in Mexico, where one of the two apparently oldest "wild" types grows. It is entirely possible that domestication arose in both regions independently. Diversity data suggests the center of diversity for wild tomatoes is located in Peru, while that of cultivated tomatoes, in Mexico. Thus, it can be hypothesized that wild tomatoes were introduced from Peru to Mexico, where they were domesticated.

In any case, by some means the tomato migrated to Central America. Mayans and other peoples in the region used the fruit in their cooking, and it was being cultivated in southern Mexico and probably other areas by the 16th Century. It is thought that the Read more at Wikipedia.org


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