History of the Tomato

History of the Tomato

The humble tomato originated from Central and South America and didn’t arrive in Europe until the 16th century, although was considered by some to be unfit for consumption. It wasn’t widely eaten in the UK until the 18th century.

The tomato is something many of us use on a daily or weekly basis, and some of us even grow them at home.

We eat tomatoes raw, in salads, on their own or use them in cooking.

Interesting Tomato Fact

With a similar look to the deadly nightshade, which legend says was used by witches and sorcerers in potions to transform themselves into werewolves, the tomatoes similar, but much larger fruit was called the “wolf peach” when it first arrived in Europe.

There are around 7,500 tomato varieties grown for various purposes today.

The average tomato plant can grow from 1 to 3 meters in height. Due to a weak stem, they require support as the fruit can be heavy. On average, the common tomato can weigh around 100 grammes, however, they can be far bigger …..


The Guinness World Records’ record for the heaviest tomato weighed 3.51 kg (7 lb 12 oz) and was grown by G. Graham (USA) of Edmond, Oklahoma, USA in 1986.

Tomatoes are consumed in a number of ways. They are popular with the Italians and form an integral part of their most popular sauces.

History of the Tomato

  • Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés may have been the first to transfer the small yellow tomato to Europe in 1521 although Christopher Columbus may have taken them back as early as 1493
  • Tomatoes are first recorded in Italy in 31 October 1548
  • Tomatoes were not grown in England until the 1590s, however they were not widely consumed until the mid 18th century.
  • The tomato was introduced to cultivation in the Middle East by John Barker, British consul in Aleppo circa 1799 to 1825.
  • The earliest reference to tomatoes being grown in British North America is from 1710

Common Tomato Varieties

  • Beefsteak (often used for sandwiches)
  • Plum Tomatoes (used for sauces and pastes)
  • Cherry Tomatoes (small and sweet, used in salads)
  • Grape Tomatoes (similar to plum tomatoes)
  • Campari Tomatoes (bigger than cherry, smaller than plum)
  • Tomberries (tiny variety about 5mm in diameter)
  • Oxheart Tomatoes (shaped like strawberries, big like oxsteak)

For a comprehensive list of all the tomatoes, visit the Wiki Page here

Growing Tomatoes at Home

Interesting in growing your own? Make visit our Tomato Growpot page and be sure to read our Instructions to getting started here.

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