Many people feel certain that there’s going to be bad news along with the good news when they learn that the tomato is a SuperFood. Of course, they like tomatoes, they think, but in many locations tomatoes are only tasty for a couple of months each year. Well, there’s good news and more good news about tomatoes. Not only do they pack a nutritional wallop, but you can enjoy their benefits all year long. That’s because their power is available in processed tomatoes. The spaghetti sauce and taco sauce that you love, along with that slice of pizza and even, yes, ketchup and barbeque sauce, all have the power of tomatoes. So, no matter where you live, it’s easy to get more tomatoes into your diet and begin to enjoy their considerable benefits.
The tomato—a critical ingredient in some of our favorite foods, including pizza and lasagna—has had a checkered past. Once scorned as a sinister and poisonous food (one Latin name, lycopersicon or “wolf peach,” refers to the belief that tomatoes were like a wolf—dangerous). It wasn’t until the late nineteenth century that tomatoes became popular. Originally grown and enjoyed by the Aztecs in Mexico, tomatoes were imported to Europe by Spanish missionaries. Viewed as a dangerous food by all but the Italians and Spanish, it took years for tomatoes to lose their unsavory reputation.
There was some basis for the original skepticism that clung to tomatoes: their leaves do contain toxic alkaloids. Embraced by Americans by the end of the nineteenth century, tomatoes have gone on to become one of our most popular vegetables and now are recognized as one of our favorite SuperFoods.
It should be noted that tomatoes are not really vegetables. Botanically classified as a fruit, they are the seed-bearing portions of a flowering plant. However, in 1893, a case came before the Supreme Court of the United States relating to shipping tariffs on tomatoes. Should farmers pay fruit or vegetable rates on them? The Court came down on the side of vegetables, and so vegetables they became.