The world wouldn't be the same without the fruit that makes your Bloody Mary crimson, your pasta Bolognese scrumptious, and your salads extra zesty: the ancient and much-loved tomato.
Hold on, did we just call it a fruit?
We most certainly did, but don't think any less of it or change your 5-a-day plan on our account. If ever there was a time to celebrate the tomato, it's on British Tomato Week. Why give it its own week? A few reasons come to mind, but you be the judge of that.
You heard that right. Their scientific name is Lycopersicon lycopersicum, which roughly translates as 'wolf peach'. When the tomato was brought to Europe, it was known as the 'golden apple' or 'pomo d'oro' - which is pretty much what it's called in Italy to this day (pomodoro).
The plump red organ with seeds is the fruit of the tomato plant, which is botanically classed as a fruit because it's a flowering plant. So, it's the fruit of a fruit. It's legally classified as a vegetable because of a 19th century US tariff law that acknowledged its use as an accompaniment to dinner rather than a type of dessert, for taxation purposes.
Tomatoes come in nearly 10,000 varieties with hues from across the colour spectrum: red, yellow, green, orange, purple, pink, white, black, and brown. Some of the most popular types are Slicing (Globe), Beefsteak, Oxheart, Heirloom, Plum, Cherry, and Campari.
Go figure! But enough of all this; let's get to the fun part.
Fighting at the table for that last cherry tomato? No judgement; after all, it's delicious. But Valencians in Buñol are taking it to a whole new level with their La Tomatina festival, where they pelt one another for two hours with 150,000 tomatoes each year. Don't worry: more than 4 times that many seeds were sent to space on the ISS as part of the 'Tomatosphere I, II, III and IV' experiments. They were then returned to Earth and grown in classrooms, so there's plenty more where that came from.
While we're on the topic of quantity, you should know that tomatoes grow right before your eyes. They increase in weight until they ripen, even after they've been harvested. Not sure how far past its due date the heaviest tomato in history was, but it weighed 3.51kg. So, don't gobble your tomatoes down. It pays to take your time with them. Also, it's not just the fruit you need to take it slow with, but the ketchup too. Famous Tomato Ketchup manufacturer has a speed limit in place for its sauce. Gush out of the bottle at more than 0.028mph (45m/h) at the factory, and quality control makes sure you end up in the bin. Who likes runny ketchup, right?
Let's move on to the topic of size. Holder of the Guinness World Record, a single tomato plant once yielded 522.464kg of tomatoes in a single year. That's a whopping 32,194 tomatoes. The plant was displayed in all its glory at Walt Disney World in Florida, USA, as part of the Epcot Science project. It covered an area of 610 sq. ft. (roughly 57 m2). That's the size of a 2-bed flat or an Olympic-size swimming pool! Meanwhile, the tallest plant in history was grown in Lancashire, UK, and reached 65 ft. (almost 20m). That's about as high as a church tower or castle. Imagine picking those heirlooms, milady!
Hopefully, all this talk of tomatoes managed to whet that appetite, in which case we invite you to try our Hearty Tomato Soup – a soup fit for royalty, if we do say so ourselves.
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