Tomatoes are one of the most popular vegetables in the world. They are used in many different dishes, from pizza and pasta to salads and soup. Tomatoes are a good source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, potassium, and lycopene. But how much do you really know about this juicy fruit? In this article, we’ve put together 23 fun tomato facts for kids that are sure to keep them engaged and broaden their knowledge about this amazing food!
From identifying the origins of wild tomatoes to understanding the many health benefits they offer, this list features so much knowledge sure to result in plenty of “Oh Wow!” moments. Simply impress your little ones with a few show-stopping facts, or delve into an exciting game of educational trivia using our tomato list!
1. Tomatoes are botanically considered fruits
Because of the diversity with which tomatoes are used in the culinary world, most people see them as a vegetable. However, if you ask a botanist about it, they’ll disagree, and here’s why:
A major difference between fruits and vegetables is that fruits are born out of the flowering parts of a plant AND contain seeds. On the other hand, vegetables could be any edible part, be it the stem, root, or leaves.
Because tomatoes come from the flowers on tomato plants and contain seeds within their flesh, they’re botanically considered a fruit.
2. Tomatoes originated in Mesoamerica
As most of you might already know, Mesoamerica is the historical region encompassing Southern parts of North America and almost all of Central America.
It was in this region that tomatoes were first grown. While historians haven’t been able to pinpoint the exact time of their domestication, they’ve found proof that the natives of Mesoamerica were already growing them by 500 BC.
3. The term “tomato” has a long history of the origin
Have you ever wondered how the name that we use for these red, juicy fruits came into existence? Here’s the story behind that:
The English term tomato is derived from the Spanish term tomate. So, what does tomate mean? Well, it’s derived from another term from an ancient Aztec language (Nahuatl) term tomatl, which, when translated to English means a swelling fruit. Quite appropriate, isn’t it?
4. The leaves and stems of tomato plants are toxic!
Did you know that the fruits that we so commonly use around our kitchen come from a plant that could be toxic to us? Yes, you heard it right.
All tomato plants contain tomatine, a glycoalkaloid found in all the green parts of the plants that can be toxic to humans when consumed in large quantities.
So, do the fruits of these plants not contain tomatine at all? Well, they do, but in such a low concentration that they’re harmless to us. And let’s not forget all the goodness these fruits offer, which is why the decision to eat them wasn’t a tough one for humans.
5. The first tomato brought to Europe was yellow in color
Because tomatoes were endemic to Mesoamerica, their introduction to Europe took place in the 16th century when. Hernan Cortes, a Spanish soldier and explorer brought a yellow tomato back from an ancient Aztec city.
Because these tomatoes were yellow in color, the Italians started calling them Pomi d’oro, which roughly translates to golden apples in English.
6. There are over 10,000 recognized tomato varieties in the world
When tomatoes were first grown in Mesoamerica, people only knew about the tiny, red ones that were grown around them. However, with time, as these fruits were spread across the world and cultivated in different climates and environments, they started to show more and more variation, ultimately splitting into numerous individual varieties.
Today, there are over 10,000 recognized varieties of these fruit being cultivated around the world. Isn’t that amazing?
7. There are as many as 300 seeds in a single tomato
If you’ve seen the flesh of tomatoes, you must’ve noticed tiny, squishy things inside. These are the seeds of these fruits. And if you ever wanted to count how many of them a single fruit contains, you might get tired in the process because there could be as many as 300!
An average-sized garden tomato is said to have 150-300 seeds. However, the smaller varieties, such as cherry or grape tomatoes, are known for having lesser seeds.
8. Tomatoes are basically water!
If you ever split open a tomato, you’ll notice how its insides are filled more with fluids than with flesh. So, it’s natural to assume that the fruit has a high water content. But can you guess just how high we’re talking here?
It might sound surprising, but 95% of a tomato’s mass is made up of water, with the remaining 4% consisting of carbohydrates. Its protein and fat content are both under the last 1%!
9. Tomatoes are the only fruits that possess an umami flavor
As you might already know, we possess five taste receptors on our tongue: sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and savory or umami. This flavor, which is highly uncommon among fruits, is present in tomatoes, making them quite extraordinary in the fruit kingdom!
10. Tomatoes come in all kinds of colors
True, red is the most common color among all tomato varieties, but it certainly isn’t the only one.
You can find tomatoes in shades of yellow, orange, green, pink, purple, white, and even black! With this many varieties, they have to be the most colorful members in both the fruit and the vegetable families.
11. The heaviest tomato in the world weighs over 10 pounds!
Many of you must know this already, but the weight of average-sized garden tomato is about 5 ounces. Now, could you guess how heavy could the largest tomato in the world be? This might blow your mind, but it’s over 30 times that size.
We’re not kidding! In 2020, Dan Sutherland, a farmer from Washington, set the world record for growing the heaviest tomato. His tomato weighed 10 pounds and 12 ounces (4.8 kilograms) and had a circumference of 33 inches, which is roughly three times the size of a dinner plate. Imagine that!
The tomato grown by Sutherland was of the Domingo variety, which is quite popular for its gigantic size.
12. In Italy, tomatoes were first grown as a garden plant
As we’ve already mentioned above, tomatoes were first introduced to Europe in the 16th century. Since it was brought back by a Spanish explorer, Spain became the first European country where the fruit’s use in the culinary world became popular.
From there, tomatoes traveled to Italy, France, and the other Northern countries of the continent. However, the people of these regions didn’t see tomatoes as fruits at all! Especially not at first.
In the beginning, the tomato plants were merely ornamental for them. In the words of a Florentine aristocrat, they were to be sought only for their beauty. The main reason behind it was their fear of belladonna, a poisonous plant that belonged to the same family as the tomatoes: Nightshade.
13. Tomatoes have a caterpillar named after them!
Did you know that there is a caterpillar out there that’s named after these fruits? Don’t worry; we’ll tell you about these caterpillars and their peculiar naming.
Tomato Hornworms are the larvae of the Five-spotted Hawkmoth and have a leafy-green body with intricate patterns drawn on each side. Now, why have they been after tomatoes? It’s because these caterpillars are picky eaters and feed only on the nightshade plants, and have a special fondness for tomato plants.
14. Roma Tomatoes are shaped like eggs!
How would you describe the shape of a tomato? The most common varieties in the market – garden tomatoes – are somewhat spherical to oval in shape, right? Well, this might take you by surprise, but there’s a tomato variety out there that looks just like an egg!
Roma Tomatoes, a plum tomato variety cultivated in Mexico, Australia, and the United States, are shaped eerily similar to eggs. So, the next time you want to prank a friend, just get one of these fruits, paint them white, and go crazy!
15. There’s a tomato variety that looks just like pear!
As long as we’re talking about tomatoes that are shaped like other foods, how can we forget Pear Tomatoes?
Also referred to as Teardrop Tomatoes, the Pear Tomatoes are named exactly after what they look like: a pear. However, they’re much smaller than pears in size and occur in yellow, orange, and red varieties (yellow being the most common one).
Pear Tomatoes originated in Europe in the 18th century and were most often used in flavoring soups.
16. A Michigan couple found a duck-shaped tomato in 2015!
We swear this is the last oddly-shaped tomato we’re going to talk about, but this one is also the most special! Wondering why? For two reasons.
First and foremost, this is not a cultivar variety that anyone can grow in their houses, but just an accidental anomaly grown on a regular garden tomato plant. The second, more obvious reason is that it’s shaped like a duck!
This unique miracle took place in the garden of a Michigan couple back in 2015, who then reported to the media. The woman, Marie Davidek, was an avid gardener in her 60s, and was quite amused to find this duck growing among other regular-shaped tomatoes.
18. China is the leading tomato-producing country in the world
Although tomatoes originated in the Americas, their production today is more widespread and prevalent in Asian countries. China ranks first on this list and is followed by India, Pakistan, and Turkey.
19. California is the leading tomato-producing state in the United States
Among the states of our country that grow tomatoes, California takes the lead, being the only major contributor accounting for over 80% of the total tomato production in the United States.
20. New Jersey has declared tomatoes as their official state vegetable
Since the tomatoes grown in New Jersey – the New Jersey Tomatoes – are so popular all over the United States, the Garden State has officially declared them as their state vegetable. This might seem weird as tomatoes are actually fruits, but if you look at the widespread culinary use of Jersey Tomatoes, it makes sense.
21. Ohio has declared tomato juice as their official state beverage
It seems like tomatoes are quite well-loved not just for their appearance but also for their juice. Ohio has officially named tomato juice as its state beverage, and here’s the story of how it happened:
It all started in 1870, when Alexander Livingston, an Ohio-based farmer, began to grow tomatoes commercially. A skilled and curious farmer, Livingston was soon well-known for having developed Paragon Tomatoes, one of the first large-sized tomatoes that had a smooth texture.
These tomatoes were so well-accepted among the people of the state that in order to honor Livingston, as well as the significance of tomatoes to the state’s economy, they began to celebrate The Tomato Festival annually in Reynoldsburg.
And it was during the Tomato Festival of 1965 that the Ohio General Assembly declared tomato juice as their state beverage.
22. The largest tomato festival in the world is held in Spain!
Now that we’ve already talked about the tomato festival celebrated in the US, let’s broaden our horizons a little and tell you about the largest tomato festival in the world! Yes, we’re talking about La Tomatina.
La Tomatina is a traditional Spanish that has been celebrated in the country every year on the last Wednesday of August since 1945. Each year, more vigor is added to this celebration, complete with band performances, parades, and, most importantly, the fight.
Earlier, the festival was open to all, but due to excessive commotion year after year, the Spanish Government declared that it would only be open to participants who had bought paid tickets. In the tomato fight that lasts about an hour, an estimate of about 300,000 pounds of tomatoes is used!
23. April 6th is celebrated as World Tomato Day
April 6th is celebrated as World Tomato Day to honor the tomato and to recognize its importance in the culinary world. The day promotes the consumption of tomatoes in order to improve one’s health.