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Tomato – food facts

Tomatoes come in a variety of sizes and colors, ranging from large ‘beefsteak’ tomatoes to small cherry tomato and wild varieties. In their native habitat (Mexico and parts of Central America) tomatoes are perennial. (The name comes from the Aztec name ‘xitomatl’.) Often thought of as vegetables, tomatoes are actually fruit (berries).

Related: Tomatoes are a member of the nightshade family, which also includes peppers,

Harvest season in the LV: Late July through the end of September, sometimes extended by greenhouse growing. Commercial varieties are often picked while green and ripened in with ethylene gas in storage facilities.

Growing conditions: Full sun (5+ hours/day); mostly warm & dry weather; in general, larger varieties need more sun, warmer weather, and more water. Most tomatoes grow as vines that need support, although there are varieties that grow as erect bushes.

Pollination: Wild tomato plants were probably pollinated by bees, but most modern varieties are self-pollinating, relying on breezes or vibration of the stems.

Cooking/Preparation required: Often eaten raw, tomatoes also are fried, baked, or made into sauces.

Fertilizers or pesticides: Commercial tomatoes are often raised with pesticides, including known carcinogens & endocrine disruptors. Commercial tomatoes, including cherry tomatoes, are on EWG’s ‘Dirty Dozen‘ list of foods with high pesticide exposure.

Nutrients: Low in sodium & saturated fats, tomatoes are rich in vitamins C & K and a good source of potassium, copper,  fiber, vitamin A (beta-carotene), vitamins B6 & E, and phosphorus.


Nutrient content can vary greatly depending on soil conditions, with organic methods and a soil rich in organic matter generally producing the best results.

‘Dirty Dozen’ or ‘Clean Fifteen’ ratings do not necessarily apply to produce grown on local farms — you need to check with the farmer to determine if and when any fertilizers or pesticides were applied.