While it is said that the tomato is an American plant it is grown and eaten all around the world. One debate that has arisen is whether or not a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable. According to botanists the tomato is a fruit and related to berries but for cooking purposes as well as according to the Supreme Court in the case of Nix vs. Hedden; the tomato is treated as a vegetable. Regardless of what side of the argument you are on there is no debating that the tomato is a versatile plant, full of the antioxidant lycopene and found in most every vegetable garden in the United States.
Tomatoes are often classified as determinate or indeterminate. Determinate Tomatoes are bush type plants growing to a specific height, usually 4 feet or less and whose crop usually comes all at once. These characteristics make them a good choice for container growing. Indeterminate Tomatoes grow into vines that continue producing a crop until killed by frost. Indeterminate Tomatoes are often preferred by gardeners and farmers who want a crop that ripens throughout the season. Another way to classify Tomatoes is by the size of its crop or its use. For example, Beefsteak varieties produce larger fruit that are good for sandwiches, Plum Tomatoes are used for sauces and salsa and Cherry or Grape Tomatoes are used in salads.
In recent years gardeners have made organic and heirloom tomatoes very popular. Organic tomatoes are cultivated using only natural fertilizers and no synthetic pesticides and studies have shown that they may have greater levels of lycopene and other beneficial nutrients. Unlike modern Tomato seeds which have been bred to produce larger yields and a deep red color heirloom tomatoes lack these genetic alterations. Heirloom Tomatoes have grown in popularity over the past few years as gardeners want access to wider varieties which have been lost over time, as well as for their taste, which many consider to be better than modern tomatoes.
The Tomatoes popularity with gardeners is evidence of the relative ease with which it is grown but Tomatoes do have their challenges. They are subject to pests such as stink bugs, aphids, white flies, slugs and cut worms. One way that gardeners can protect their tomatoes from some of these pests is through something known as companion planting. Planting certain plants with tomatoes can keep bugs away including herbs such as parsley, chives and dill as well as marigolds and garlic. Additionally, tomatoes can be subject to diseases such as tobacco mosaic virus, verticillium wilt and fusarium wilt. There have been attempts to increase the resistance to these diseases in modern tomatoes but the heirloom varieties do not have this type of protection.
With so many varieties available there are Tomato seeds or plants that will fit your personal preference. So who cares if Tomatoes are fruits or vegetables! The Supreme Court..really?