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Tomato Factoids

By Christina Waters

  • The scientific name for the common tomato is Lycopersicon (lyco = wolf; persicon = peach) esculentum ("edible"). Edible wolf peach. Somehow it makes sense.

  • Americans consume more than 80 pounds of tomatoes per person every year--more than half that in the form of ketchup.

  • The tomato belongs to the same family as tobacco and the potato.

  • Tomatoes are judged to be ready for commercial harvesting the same way that wine grapes are, by measuring their level of Brix, a unit of sweetness.

  • There are more than 4,000 varieties of tomatoes cultivated today, ranging in color from yellow, pink, orange and red to deep maroon, purple and bright green. Sizes range from the thumbnail-sized Sugar Babies to giant 3-pound Ponderosas.

  • California produces over 1 billion pounds of tomatoes annually.

    Definitely Healthy

    Tomatoes are jam-packed with antioxidants, including lycopene, noted for its ability to retard cellular damage and reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Tomatoes also contain carotenoids, beta carotene being the best-known, and vitamin C . Tests seem to support claims that tomatoes protect against the free radicals that can cause cancer, heart disease and premature aging. Tomatoes are not only incredibly tasty and culinarily versatile, they are also one of the healthiest things you can put in your mouth.

    Just Say No!

    Never refrigerate a ripe tomato. Do not refrigerate unripe tomatoes either. If picked or purchased slightly yellow or green, tomatoes will happily ripen in two or three days on your kitchen counter. Put a tomato in the refrigerator only if you want it to lose its flavor, texture and nutritional value.

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  • From the September 6-13, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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