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Monday, June 29, 2015

Tomatoes-Guest Post

My Mother In Law asked me last night when I was planning to put up a new blog post as it has been almost a month since my last.  We have been a little busy with things that I haven't had time to blog about like: a trip to cattle camp, a trip to a national cattle show, wheat harvest, putting up hay and so much more.  Packing for a vacation or camp is hard, but when you are packing cattle and kids it takes on a whole new realm.  The kids and cattle have traveled almost 650 miles together this summer!  I have a few more days of wheat harvest and I promise to finish up a pile of posts that are partially done along with the ones bouncing around in my head.  In the meantime, how about another from my somewhat regular guest contributor Dale Helwig?  My tomatoes are getting close!  

Things you may not know about tomatoes

Tomatoes are a very popular garden crop. I hesitate to say vegetable because technically tomatoes are a fruit. The debate of whether a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable has been going on for a very long  time. That debate has even been brought before the United States Supreme Court. You would think the highest court in the land would have better things to do than argue over if tomatoes are a fruit or a vegetable. But when money is involved, people will argue about anything. That is exactly what happened in 1893. The U.S. had imposed a tariff tax on vegetables but not on fruits. In the case of Nix v. Hedden, the Supreme Court ruled that tomatoes were a vegetable based on their use. Tomatoes are not typically served as a dessert.

However, the courts did not change the botanical classification of the tomato. I saw on the internet what the difference is between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit and wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

The tomato originated in South America. European explorers discovered them in the 1500's and took them back to Europe where the French dubbed them the “love apple.” Nothing says I love you like a big juicy tomato. Who needs roses when you have tomatoes? By the way men, they are a lot cheaper, have no thorns, and are edible. This would not be a waste of money.

By the 1600's they got over that and the Spanish called them “tomate” where we get our modern
form of tomato.

Today ninety-three percent of American gardens have tomatoes in them. The U.S. Department of Agriculture claims Americans consume 22-24 pounds of tomatoes per person each year. Most of that is in the form of ketchup and tomato sauce. California is the largest producer of processed tomatoes in the United States, while Florida produces the greatest amount of fresh tomatoes. However, the largest tomato on record was grown by Gordon Graham in Edmond, Oklahoma. It weighed a whopping 7 pounds 12 ounces. Amazingly, the United States in not the greatest producer of tomatoes. China is number one followed by the United States, Turkey and India.

The importance of the tomato does not stop there. Besides being the best companion to a slice of bacon (in my opinion), the tomato is very important to other states in the union as well.  The tomato is the official fruit and vegetable of Arkansas. Apparently the debate was settled there. They just classify it as both a fruit and a vegetable. Maybe the tomato is bi-polar. In other news, the state of Ohio has made tomato juice the official beverage. That is one form of the tomato I can not tolerate. The Buckeye State may have just lost a supporter. I love tomatoes but they are made to be eaten not drunk. (again my opinion)

So what about those people that do not like tomatoes in any form? They refuse to grow them, eat or drink them. Well they are in luck. They can move to Bunol, Spain. The last Wednesday in August they hold the La Tomatina Festival. Tens of thousands of visitors will participate in the largest tomato fight known to man. Some 150,000 tomatoes will be thrown at each other in this celebration. Talk about your ultimate food fight!

Whatever your opinion is about tomatoes, it is the time of year to start putting them in your garden, well at least for 93% of you. Stay tuned for next time as we dive into the world of the tomato plant. Till then, as life continues, keep looking between the barb wire.

Dale Helwig
Cherokee County Ag Agent

You might enjoy these recipes for tomatoes:

Cherry Tomato Salad
California Fish Tacos
Italian Roast Beef Panini with Garlic Aioli

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