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Tomato (Lycopersicon Esculentum)

Like all species of Solanum, they are native to America so all dishes now popular in Europe and Asia such as Italian tomato sauces, British potato dishes and hot Indian curries would have been unknown before the discovery of the Americas - even then, most were slow to gain popularity. Indian curry dishes had existed previously, but pepper had been used to provide any heat.

There are considered to be about ten species, but four main groups -

1. Large-fruited "beef" tomatoes, which grow up to about 10cm across, and generally have lobes. These can weigh as much as only 2 to the kilo.

2. Medium-sized, round-fruited, varieties - most common in our shops.

3. Small "cherry" tomatoes, which weigh-in at about 80 to the kilo.

4. Plum-shaped tomatoes.

Under British conditions, tomatoes are half-hardy annuals, but in warmer climates can be short-lived perennials.

As well as different tomato groups mentioned above, British growers have recently introduced the term "cocktail tomato" - this being a tomato bigger than cherry but below their full-size grading system. These they try to sell, generally on-the-vine, at a premium price. See our 'Mail Order Section' under 'Seeds and Plants'

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