There’s good news and more good news about tomatoes. Not only does this SuperFood pack a nutritional wallop with high amounts of lycopene, but you can enjoy its benefits all year long. Even though tomatoes are seasonal, their power is available in processed varieties — and they’re still great for you.
Spaghetti sauce, taco sauce and, yes, even ketchup and barbecue sauces all have the power of tomato nutrition. So, no matter where you live, it’s easy to get more tomatoes in your diet to enjoy their considerable benefits.
The tomato—a critical ingredient in some of our favorite foods, including pizza and lasagna—has had a checkered past. Once scorned as a sinister and poisonous food (One Latin name, lycopersicon or “wolf peach,” is grounded in the belief that tomatoes are dangerous.), it wasn’t until the late 19th Century that tomatoes became popular. Originally grown and enjoyed by the Aztecs in Mexico, tomatoes were imported to Europe by Spanish missionaries. Viewed as a dangerous food by all but the Italians and Spanish, it took years for tomatoes to lose their unsavory reputation.
There was some basis for the original skepticism that clung to tomatoes: their leaves do contain toxic alkaloids. Embraced by Americans by the end of the 19th century, tomatoes have gone on to become one of our most popular foods, and they are now recognized as one of our favorite SuperFoods.
It should be noted that tomatoes are not really vegetables. Botanically classified as a fruit, they are the seed-bearing portions of a flowering plant. However, in 1893, a case came before the Supreme Court of the United States about whether farmers should pay fruit or vegetable rates on them. The Court came down on the side of vegetables, and so vegetables they became.