The tomato, native to the Americas, has made its mark on cuisines around the world. The conquistadors encountered tomatoes, called xitomatl by the Aztecs, when they arrived in the New World. When they carried their discovery back to Spain, the name became tomate. From there, tomatoes made their way to the rest of Europe. Temperate regions along the Mediterranean were particularly conducive to growing this sun-loving fruit. On its travels, the tomato found its way into Spanish gazpachos, French salads, Italian sauces, North African tagines and, eventually, Indian curries and other Asian dishes.
The fruit that acts like a vegetable
Botanically, the tomato is a fruit of the vine. In the kitchen, it is almost always treated as a vegetable. In fact, in 1893, the United States Supreme Court ruled, for the purpose of levying a tariff, that the tomato was a vegetable.
Growing tomatoes in Florida
Like the sunny Mediterranean region, Florida has the warm temperatures necessary for cultivating tomatoes. This state’s tomato industry is believed to have started in the 1870s. Today, Florida is the nation’s largest producer of fresh tomatoes.
With almost every southern county in the state cultivating tomatoes, Florida produces virtually all the fresh-market, field-grown tomatoes in the US from October through June each year, and accounts for about 50 % of all fresh tomatoes produced domestically.