Tomatoes are one of the most popular fruits in the world. Wait! A fruit? Yes, that’s right—tomatoes are actually a fruit—not a vegetable. The reason they are a fruit is because they have seeds inside of them like apples, oranges, lemons, kiwi, and all other types of fruit.
There are many different types or varieties of tomatoes—over 7,500! Most types of tomatoes are red, but there are also yellow tomatoes and tomatoes that are both yellow and red.
Tomatoes also come in different shapes and sizes:
- Most tomatoes are round and the same size as a tennis ball
- Some can be as big as a softball
- Cherry tomatoes look like little cherries
- Roma tomatoes are egg-shaped
- Yellow pear tomatoes look like little tiny pears—about an inch tall
Where did tomatoes come from
The tomato plant was first discovered in Peru and the Aztec Indians were the first people to eat tomatoes. Today tomatoes are grown in almost every country in the world. The country that grows the most tomatoes, though, is China. The United States is next and India comes in third place for growing the most tomatoes.
How to grow tomatoes
Tomato plants grow from seeds—the same seeds that are inside the tomato. Tomato plants need lots of sunshine and healthy soil to grow well. Tomatoes also need water to grow, but not too much. Too much water will make the plants weak.
It is also important for the soil to be warm when planting tomato seeds or young tomato plants. If the soil is cold, the seeds will not germinate and young plants will get ‘sick’ and not grow.
If you want to have strong, healthy tomato plants, you also need to pinch off the bottom leaves of the plant. Every time a tomato plant grows two new sets of leaves, you should pinch off the bottom set of leaves. This will let the plant stay strong on the bottom so it can support the weight of the tomatoes that it produces.
Watch out for bugs
People aren’t the only ones who like tomatoes. There are several different kinds of bugs that like to eat tomato plants and tomatoes.
Tomato hornworms eat the leaves of tomato plants
- Aphids eat the leaves and will cause the leaves of the plant to turn yellow
- Spider mites feed on the plant’s leaves and kill the plant by making sticky webs on the leaves that keep the leaves from being able to take in food (photosynthesis).
- Tomato worms and stinkbugs leave tiny brown spots on the tomato after eating from it
- Slugs dig holes in tomatoes and eat what is inside
It is easy to understand why we don’t want bugs eating our tomatoes, but you might wonder why it is bad for bugs to eat the leaves of the plant. The reason it is not good for bugs to eat the leaves of tomato plants (or any other plant) is because it damages the leaves so they cannot feed the rest of the plant. And if the leaves can’t feed the plant, the whole plant dies.
So how do you get rid of the bugs eating tomato plants? By spraying the plant with water to knock them off and drown them or by washing the plants with soapy water.
The many uses of tomatoes
Tomatoes are used in many of our favorite things to eat. If it weren’t for tomatoes, we couldn’t have…
- Pizza sauce
- Spaghetti sauce
- Tomato soup
- Bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches
- Taco sauce
Fun tomato fact
Every year in Bunol, Spain, they have a tomato throwing contest. The people in the contest throw tomatoes at each other!
Read more about Plant Facts for Kids