The tomato, Lycopersicon esculentum, is a part of the nightshade family. It is a warm-season crop that originated in the Americas and was taken to Europe by Spanish conquistadors in the sixteenth century. Some believe the fruit might have been taken to Europe by Christopher Columbus himself as early as the fifteenth century. Botanically speaking, the tomato is a fruit but was deemed a vegetable in 1893 by the U.S. Supreme Court to clear up a tariff dispute.
Both field- and greenhouse-grown tomatoes for the fresh market are hand-picked, while most bound for processing are harvested by machine.
The world’s top producer of tomatoes is China, in both field-grown and greenhouse varieties. In North America, Canada rules the greenhouse market, followed by Mexico and the United States.
References: Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, Statistics Canada, USDA.
|CANADA||MEXICO||UNITED STATES||OTHER INTERNATIONAL|
*includes Baja California and Baja California Sur.
References: Asociation Mexicana de Horticultura Protegida (AMHPAC); Gary Hickman, Cuesta Roble Consulting; Roberta Cook (formerly of University of California, Davis), Statistics Canada, USDA.
TYPES, VARIETIES & CUTS
Tomatoes can be classified several ways but usually fall into determinate and indeterminate varieties. Determinate varieties grow to a certain height and produce fruit for one cycle; indeterminate varieties require staking and grow throughout the season. Commercially, both determinate and indeterminate varieties are used.
Cultivars for greenhouse use tend to be specifically bred and of a heartier nature for indoor growth, due to reductions (15 to 20%) in light from outdoor counterparts, with some seeds tailored to geographic locations given seasonal light availability. Higher-tech greenhouses regulate light for optimal growing conditions. Target harvests can range from 25 to 45 pounds of fruit per plant during a 10- to 12-month growing season.
Greenhouse-grown, like open-field tomatoes, come in several shapes, sizes, and colors. Standard sizes include the most common, the round or globe, as well as grape, cherry, grape/plum, or pear/teardrop. Cherry tomatoes are small and range in size from one to two inches in diameter; beefsteak tomatoes are large, wide, and somewhat flat-looking. Grape, plum, or pear tomatoes have smooth skin and are shaped as their names imply. Colors are no longer limited to traditional red, there are also white, yellow/orange, green, brown, pink, and even purple/black.
The USDA categorizes tomatoes as greenhouse, fresh, cherry, or on-the-vine.
References: Mississippi State University Extension, USDA, University of Kentucky.