The Most Complete Encyclopedia of Tomato

In this blog we’ll share with you the characteristics of tomatoes (both the fruit and the plant), the main types of tomatoes, their properties, history, main producers and importers, how they are grown and some products made from this vegetable. Don’t miss it!  

What is tomato and what are its characteristics?    

Scientific nameSolanum subsect. Lycopersicum
Common nameTomato, tomate or jitomate
Place of origin  Mexico
HabitatHigh and low altitude territories above sea level, arid or humid.
DistributionAmerica, Asia, Europe and Africa (see section on top 5 tomato producers in the world for more information).

Characteristics of the tomato plant  

Its plant is known as tomato plant and its scientific name is Solanum lycopersicum. It belongs to the Solanum genus and the Solanaceae family.  

It is a hanging plant, similar to creepers. It consists of a very thin stem with hairs, whose branches grow downwards bearing fruit at their tips. It can reach up to 2.50 meters in height.  

Along with its fruits, the tomato plant produces a series of yellow flowers with 5 open petals on the outside. In the center, it has five more petals, but this time they don’t open. These petals are elongated. The plant produces approximately 50 flowers at most per cluster. Its leaves are oval-shaped and green in color.

Description of the tomato fruit

The tomato is a round or ovoid berry with a smooth texture measuring from 3 to 16 centimeters in diameter and weighing approximately 200 to 300 grams.   

Its most characteristic color is red, although this can vary depending on the type, as there are some green and black. However, it is worth noting that the green color is not always indicative of a type of tomato, it can also suggest that the red tomato is not yet ripe.

Its flavor is a mixture of sour and salty. (If you want to know which tomatoes are green when ripe, we invite you to read the section below on types of tomatoes).

Its seeds are scattered mostly inside the fruit and measure from 3 to 5 millimeters in diameter at most and 2.5 millimeters in height. They are usually pale yellow.

The flesh of the tomato or its inner part is reddish and has a juicy and soft consistency, which can be felt either by biting into it or holding it in the hand. Part of the pulp covers the seeds and takes on the role of a membrane.

Tomato and its plant

Types of tomato  

In general, there are 18 types or varieties of tomato:

  1. Tomato alicante
  2. Cherry tomato 
  3. Pear tomato 
  4. Milano tomato 
  5. Kumato tomato  
  6. Saladette or Roma tomato:
  7. Ball or round tomato:
  8. Cocktail tomato:
  9. Grape or uvaline tomato:
  10. Heirloom tomato:
  11. Ox heart tomato 
  12. Tomato from La Cañada-Níjar: Tomato from La Cañada-Níjar 
  13. Paquino Tomato 
  14. Santorini Tomato 
  15. Old Limachino Tomato 
  16. Barbastro pink tomato 
  17. San Marzano Tomato 
  18. Raisin tomato

Today we’ll focus on the first five types mentioned as they are the main ones.

Tomato Alicantes    

This is the most popular cultivar in Colombia. Its color is red and its flavor and size do not vary from the described tomato fruit.  

This tomato is mainly used in Colombian cuisine for the preparation of stews, sauces and typical recipes of the region such as “el hogao”. It is also consumed raw to accompany salads.  

Cherry Tomato  

It is also called “cherry tomato” and is known this way because of its small size, from 20 to 35 millimeters. This variety is the result of a combination with the “raisin tomato” and one of its characteristics is its high sugar content in spite of its acid taste. It can be found in red, green or black presentations.

Cherry tomato

Pear tomato 

It has an elongated and ovoid shape that ends in a point. This variety, like the Cherry tomato, is distinguished by having more sugar than the other varieties and this makes its flavor sweeter than acid and its aroma is stronger.  

This flavor and the fact that it has few seeds makes it widely used in the preparation of sauces and preserves mainly in Spain in places like Ampurdán, Catalonia. Its pulp is fleshy.

Pear tomato
By Fructibus – Own work, CC0,


Tomato milano  

Like the alicante tomato, this variety is widely used in Colombia. It has a round but flattened shape. It is mostly used as an accompaniment to sandwiches and hamburgers. This type of tomato is suitable for consumption whether it is green or red. Its flavor is acidic.

Green tomato

Kumato tomato

This tomato is distinguished from the others by its black or red color mixed with brown. Its interior sometimes retains the reddish color, although it may darken due to the color of its exterior.  

This variety was developed and is marketed in Europe by the Swiss agricultural supplier Syngenta Seeds. All kumatos come from the European continent, mainly from France, Belgium, Switzerland and Spain. Its flavor is much more intense than the traditional tomato.

Black tomato
By Fructibus – Own work, CC0,

Properties and benefits of tomato  

Tomato nutritional profile  

CompositionQuantity (gr)CDR(%)
MineralsQuantity (mg)CDR(%)
VitaminsQuantity (mg)CDR(%)
Vitamin A0.2224.1%
Vitamin B10.075.8%
Vitamin B200%
Vitamin B30.90%
Vitamin B1200%
Vitamin C26.629.6%

Please take a look at the tomato nutritional table per 100g taken from Vegaffinity.  

5 properties of tomato that you didn’t know


Lycopene is a compound in high demand for its richness in antioxidants that not only gives tomatoes their red color, but are also necessary to prevent various types of cancer such as breast, lung, stomach and prostate cancer.

Protects your heart

It has been shown that a daily consumption of tomatoes reduces the levels of bad cholesterol, which is responsible for the accumulation of fat in the veins and arteries. This is thanks to the presence of lycopene in this food, which not only reduces cholesterol, but also the amount of triglycerides, thus preventing the development of cardiovascular diseases.

Rich in vitamins and minerals

Tomato has 40% of vitamin C, which makes it one of the foods that contains more of this vitamin in addition to lemon or orange. Vitamin C is also useful to prevent cancer just as lycopene is; we can therefore say that tomatoes are a powerful source of antioxidants.  

On the other hand, it also has a high percentage of potassium and iron that serve to maintain a healthy nervous system and blood respectively. In addition to this, it has vitamin K which is essential for clotting.

It fights the side effects of smoking 

The components of tomatoes are mainly chlorogenic acid and p-coumaric acid. These components are key to combat the nitrosamines that are formed in our body when we smoke, this substance appears in cigarette smoke and is carcinogenic.

Heal your skin  

If you have burns you can make a juice with this tomato and apply it on your skin to restore the areas that have been affected. This happens thanks to its antioxidant vitamins that also protect your skin from the effects of UV rays if you eat tomato daily.

On the other hand, anti-aging products are often made from tomatoes. In the “tomato-based products” section you can see some of these products.

History and origin of tomato  

The tomato comes from the low Andes and began to be planted in Mexico by the Aztecs. Its name was given by this empire, but in its original language it was called “tomatl” which meant “swollen fruit”. It was the Spanish conquistadors who gave it its Spanish name “tomato”.  

This vegetable was brought to Spain at the beginning of the 16th century due to the constant travels of Christopher Columbus. When it arrived in Spain, it began to be commercialized with Italy in 1544, where the herb grower Mattioli was in charge of making this new food known, and named it “pomodoro”.  

When the tomato was first discovered in other countries such as France, it was attributed some aphrodisiac properties and for this reason it was known by the French as “pomme d’amour”, although nowadays this concept is not associated to tomatoes but to caramelized apples.

Not only the discovery of the tomato was carried out years ago, but also some of its best known recipes today, such as the Spanish-style or homemade tomato sauce. It is known that this recipe was elaborated in the year 1692.

Global tomato industry  

Know the main tomato producers and importers in the world.    

Top 5 tomato producers in the world  

According to Wikipedia, tomato is the most traded vegetable around the world. In 2016 it accounted for 20.86% of the amount of vegetables exported per year.In the same year, 4.78 million hectares were grown and 177.04 million tons of tomatoes were harvested.

Next, let’s take a look at the 5 countries with the highest amount of tomato tons produced:

CountryTons of tomato produced per year
China  61’523.462
United States12’612.139

Taken from Wikipedia


This country accounts for 31.81% of the world’s tomato production and not only has big numbers in tons of tomato produced, but also in cultivated area with 1’075,757 hectares.  

China yields 50 tons per hectare and has a profit of 25,357 million USD for this crop.


The second position is held by this country with a percentage of 10.39% of world tomato production. Its production area is 812,000 hectares.  

There is a particularity with tomato in this country and is that there is a variety that is only found there, it is called Arka Rakshak and stands out for producing 19 kilograms per plant, this is one of the reasons why the country does not need so many hectares of cultivation.  

India has a yield of 20.11 tons per hectare and a profit of 4,102 million USD with respect to this crop.

The United States  

The United States is in third place with an estimated 10.36% of world tomato production, closely followed by India. Its production area is 150,140 hectares.  

The United States has a yield of 87.96 tons per hectare and a profit of 9.113 million USD from this crop.


Turkey is the fourth country with a percentage of 7.12% of world tomato production. Its production area is 174,161 hectares.  

This nation has a yield of 37.83 tons per hectare and 5,036 million USD in tomato production value. Turkish tomato production represents 71.45% in the European Union.


With the fifth place in the list, the Egyptian country has a share of 3.63% of tomato production worldwide. Its production area is 174,802 hectares. Egypt has a yield of 39.85 tons per hectare and 2,385 million USD in tomato production value. These production figures refer not only to traditional tomatoes, but also to cherry tomatoes.

Major tomato importers in the world 

The main importers of tomatoes and tomato-based products in 2020 are shown in the table below:  

CountryTotal importation (tons)Values of imports
(thousands of dollars)
United States1 838 3712 918 319
Germany731 3701 540 601
France507 483719 404
Russia467 068525 128
United Kingdom375 537622 465
Pakystan365 38064 547
Saudi Arabia303 924126 695
The Netherlands233 137336 331
Canada188 435319 139
Poland173 090268 647
World Total7 221 4579 631 465

Taken from Wikipedia  

How is tomato cultivated? 

There are a series of requirements that must be taken into account to grow this vegetable. Below, we’ll show you what they are:  


It must have a pH level between 6 and 7. If the pH is lower than 6, you can enrich it by adding organic fertilizer or acid compost, and if, on the contrary, the pH is higher than 7, you can use a little granulated sulfur mixture to regulate it. Good soil drainage and compost quality are necessary. 


The appropriate temperature for growing tomatoes is between 18 and 27°C (64 and 77°F). When the temperature is higher than 27°C, it affects the development of its flowers, which is why a temperate climate is chosen for flowering.

Tomato planting method  

Seed collection   

You have various options for sowing tomato seeds. Not only can you take them manually from the tomato, you can also visit nurseries, seed banks, plant stores or a farmer to buy them. If you hand-pick them, you must expose them for some time in the open air to dry out and lose as much moisture as possible before planting them.

Decide which variety you’ll plant   

Choose the type of tomato you want to plant according to your needs; from varieties with more flesh which are ideal for making sauces to smaller varieties such as cherry tomatoes, perfect for salads.

Sowing in seedbeds  

These seeds must first be planted in a seedbed, dig a hole no more than 1-centimeter-deep with your finger and distribute them evenly.

Seedling watering  

You must water the crop constantly so as to keep it moist until the seeds germinate, about 10 to 15 days will elapse. Once the seeds have begun to flower, leave them for 4 to 6 weeks to remove them from the seedbed and plant them in open places.

Planting tomatoes outdoors  

  1. Once the seeds have germinated, move them to the soil in which you want the tomatoes to grow and in the same way as in the seedbeds, dig small holes and cover them with organic fertilizer.
  2. After preparing the holes, bury the germinated seeds leaving part of their stems under the soil.
  3. If you are going to sow more than one plant, make sure to leave a space of about 40 to 50 centimeters between each crop.
  4. After planting the crop, you can water it, being careful to only wet the soil and not the plant, as this can cause humidity problems.  When the tomato is grown you can reduce watering, so the fruit concentrates less water and the flavor is better preserved.
  5. The tomato grows very well on crops such as onion or albaca, so if you have any of them, don’t hesitate to plant them next to the tomato plant.
  6. It is advisable to use methods such as mulching to increase the soil temperature and keep it warm.
  7. As we mentioned before, this plant is a vine, so it would be good to have tools to support it, such as tutors, canes or nets and prevent its fruits from falling on the ground.


It is necessary to prune the tomato about 2 weeks after planting it outside the seedbed. The axillary shoots have to be removed in this pruning so that they do not reduce the energy of the plant.

Tomato harvest

The tomato is ready to be harvested about 60 days after planting in the open air. Instead of pulling the tomato, it should be gently twisted to remove it from the plant.

Tomato post-harvest 

Ripe tomatoes can be kept for 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator. In case they need to ripen, they are left at room temperature in a closed paper bag.

Uses and Products Made from Tomatoes

Tomatoes can be eaten individually with the peel removed, as part of daily meals in stews, sauces or as an accompaniment to salads. It is eaten fresh or processed.  

Certain tomato-based products such as sauces or pastas have also been launched on the market. Below, we’ll show you some of them. 

Industrial products made from tomato  

Processed tomato sauce  

This sauce is made from tomato pulp and other ingredients such as sugar, vinegar and salt are added. When we talk about tomato sauce, we usually refer to ketchup, which is the processed product used as a topping on hot dogs, hamburgers or rice for lunch or dinner, not only to add flavor but also to garnish the dish.

ketchup tomato sauce

Homemade products made from tomatoes  

Homemade tomato sauce  

This homemade sauce is the one we refer to in the tomato history section. It is made from the crushed pulp of the tomato mixed with other foods such as onion, chili, cilantro, salt or lemon juice; the choice of these ingredients varies according to the customs of each country. As it is a homemade preparation, it doesn’t contain additives, which differentiates it from ketchup.

Photo by Oleg Prokopenko form PxHere

Tomato juice (vegetable)  

Not to be confused with tamarillo juice, here we are talking purely about the tomato that goes into savory foods; however, this type of tomato also has its own juice or juice, which is mostly used in cocktails such as the popular Bloody Mary.  

This juice can be prepared in an artisanal way or you can buy it made in supermarkets, only that, in the latter case, it is usually accompanied by additives such as onion powder or other spices.

Tomato juice

Dehydrated tomato  

This product consists of sliced tomatoes whose water has been extracted and seeds have been removed. To extract the water from them, once the seeds are removed, they are cooked in boiling water, then drained and treated with brine, after which they are exposed to the sun until they obtain a dry, brittle and wrinkled texture like that of a raisin.

Dried tomato
From Georges Seguin (Okki) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Tomato extracts

When we mention tomato extract we are not referring to tomato-based dietary supplements but to substances in which, as the name suggests, tomato juice obtained from tomatoes while ripe and healthy and the remaining peel, seeds or rough parts of the fruit have been removed.  

Today the most popular types of tomato extract are tomato puree and tomato paste. Many people do not know the difference between tomato paste and tomato sauce, and what distinguishes them is that tomato paste is made purely from the fruit, while tomato sauce has other substances such as those mentioned previously in the product description.


After having consulted this blog, you may realize how many properties tomatoes have, such as their important role in the prevention of cancer. Also, if you have reached the end of this guide, you may have observed just some of the uses you can give them in the kitchen as a very healthy alternative for your stomach. So, for this reason, you would be doing yourself a favor by consuming it on a daily basis, don’t you think?