Test Your Tomato IQ!

Saturday, June 25, 2011 | 0 comments »

By Elizabeth Brion

It's summertime! For people like me, there's no need to look for an upside—it's all good news. But even if you hate the heat and sunshine makes you snappish, surely you're at least a little optimistic about the season's glorious tomato crop. Friends have waxed rhapsodic about the joy of heading out into the garden with a salt shaker and just chowing down; I'm a city mouse myself and never had that opportunity, but my lower-Manhattan roommates and I did once hold a BYOTAS party (Bring Your Own Tomatoes and Salt, obviously). I can't imagine why that trend never caught on. Let's find out how much you know about tomatoes.
  1. False: The largest tomato ever grown weighed nearly 5 pounds. The Guinness Book record-holder, grown by Gordon Graham of Oklahoma in 1986, actually weighed in at 7 pounds, 12 ounces.
  2. True: The tomato is a vegetable. You thought you had this one, right? In a twist on the twist to this story, the biologically-a-fruit tomato was ruled to be a vegetable by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Nix v. Hedden, 1893. I'm not 100 percent sure about this, but I believe that as a U.S. citizen I am required to abide by that ruling in all public correspondence.
  3. False: The tomato loses much of its nutritional value when cooked. While this is true for many foods, the tomato's nutritional value actually increases significantly—specifically, the level of the crucial antioxidant lycopene. Lycopene is fat soluble, so cooking the tomatoes with some oil will increase the nutrient's bioavailability. Don't you love when the healthiest option is also a fun option?
  4. False: The scientific name of the tomato translates to "apple of love." Close—that's its Italian name, pomodoro. Its scientific name, lycopersicum, translates to "wolf peach." Which is such a cool name I'm not sure why we don't just call it that. Want to start?
  5. True: Tomatoes were once considered poisonous. Like the rest of the nightshade family, tomatoes had a bad reputation—some other nightshades came by that rep honestly, but the tomato just has a teensy bit of poison and clearly wants to serve humankind honorably. In 1820, a gentleman named Robert Gibbon Johnson decided he'd had enough of our nonsense and stood on the courthouse steps of Salem, NJ, eating tomato after tomato without dying until the townspeople had to admit it was safe. And he did this without even the faintest possibility of YouTube® stardom. That's dedication.