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Tomato: Fruit or Vegetable?

Tomato:  Fruit or Vegetable?These days at the Klapperich house, every meal includes garden-fresh tomatoes.  And I mean EVERY meal, even breakfast!  (Think BLT without the B and L.)

The perennial question students ask when I am teaching nutrition, health and wellness classes in their classrooms is, “Is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable?”  Typically a lively bit of debate ensues.  Then I answer the question by explaining, “Botanically, a tomato is classified as a fruit because it has seeds and is derived from flower tissue.  However, from a nutrition standpoint, tomatoes are considered vegetables because of the way they are used in meals.”

Tomatoes are a nutritious, fat-free, low calorie food.  They are also a great source of a variety of vitamins, including vitamins A and C, plus minerals such as potassium.  But wait!  There’s more!  Tomatoes are also rich with high amounts of lycopene.

What is lycopene, you ask?  Lycopene is a carotenoid pigment that gives tomatoes (and watermelon and pink grapefruit) their red color. 

Lycopene is linked with reducing the risk of certain types of cancer.  Interestingly, lycopene is better absorbed by our bodies if the tomatoes are canned or cooked, rather than fresh.  

With the recommendation that half of our plate be filled with a variety of colorful fruits and veggies, tomatoes can be a go-to when you are adding something red.  So go ahead: enjoy tomatoes fresh, and also cooked in casseroles, spaghetti sauces, salsas, and soups!  

NDSU Extension offers a two page Field to Fork publication that includes information on growing, storing, preserving, and using tomatoes in meals and recipes.  The Field to Fork tomato publication is available from the Extension office or online at https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/publications/food-nutrition/field-to-fork-tomatoes/fn1800.pdf

Two-page Field to Fork publications for other garden and orchard produce are also available from the Extension office or online at https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/fieldtofork/choose-your-crop.

Source:  NDSU Extension Field to Fork: Tomatoes, FN1800, January 2020.

Photo Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/tomatoes-bio-balcony-rain-1561565/ (downloaded 08/25/20)

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