The tomato is the fruit of the plant Lycopersicon lycopersicum and is a member of the Solanaceae, or Nightshade family. Tomato is a wonderfully popular and versatile food that comes in over a thousand different varieties that vary in shape, size and color. There are small cherry tomatoes, bright yellow tomatoes, Italian pear-shaped tomatoes, and the green tomato, famous for its fried preparation in Southern American cuisine.
Tomatoes have fleshy internal segments filled with slippery seeds surrounded by a watery matrix. They can be red, yellow, orange, green, purple, or brown in color. Although tomatoes are fruits in a botanical sense, they don't have the dessert quality sweetness of other fruits. Instead they have a subtle sweetness that is complemented by a slightly bitter and acidic taste. Cooking tempers the acid and bitter qualities in tomatoes and brings out their warm, rich, sweetness.
In the area of food and phytonutrient research, nothing has been hotter in the last several years than studies on the lycopene in tomatoes.Lycopene has been shown to help protect not only against prostate, but breast, pancreatic and intestinal cancers, especially when consumed with fat-rich foods, such as avocado, olive oil or nuts.
Tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin K. They are also a very good source of molybdenum, potassium, manganese, dietary fiber, chromium, and vitamin B1. In addition, tomatoes are a good source of vitamin B6, folate, copper, niacin, vitamin B2, magnesium, iron, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, vitamin E and protein.