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Tomatoes

Tomatoes are one of the favorite plants of home gardeners and, at the same time, one of the most misunderstood.

Homegrown tomatoes’ popularity comes from their savory, slightly acidic, fill-your-mouth flavor, something you usually can’t get from store-bought varieties. More people start home gardens to grow tomatoes than any other single plant.

Keep your eyes peeled the next time August rolls around. With luck, you might spot a gardener standing in her backyard, salt shaker in one hand, a half-eaten tomato in the other, reveling in the pleasures of this home grown treat. They are truly that tasty.

The two biggest misunderstandings about tomatoes have to do with where they originally came from — many people just assume it’s Italy — and what type of plant they are, a fruit or a vegetable.

It’s easy to understand why people assume that tomatoes got their start in Italy. Just look at all the wonderful Italian foods that use tomatoes as a key ingredient: pizza, spaghetti, lasagna, bruschetta — popular all around the world, and all from Italy.

But tomatoes do not, in fact, come originally from Italy. They got their start in South America, then made their way to the rest of the world through Italy. For North Americans, that means tomatoes made one of the biggest U-turns globally in the history of edible plants. For hundreds of years, North Americans feared tomatoes. It took Italian immigrants to teach us that they were perfectly safe and tasted great, too.

That’s a bit of history you might want to know.

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