The tomato, native to the Americas, has made its mark on cuisines
around the world. The conquistadors encountered tomatoes, called
xitomatl by the Aztecs, when they arrived in the New World. When
they carried their discovery back to Spain, the name became tomate.
From there, tomatoes made their way to the rest of Europe.
Temperate regions along the Mediterranean were particularly
conducive to growing this sun-loving fruit. On its travels, the tomato
found its way into Spanish gazpachos, French salads, Italian sauces,
North African tagines and, eventually, Indian curries and other
Botanically, the tomato is a fruit of the vine. In the kitchen, it is almost
always treated as a vegetable. In fact, in 1893, the United States
Supreme Court ruled, for the purpose of levying a tariff, that the
tomato was a vegetable.
Like the sunny Mediterranean region, Florida has the warm
temperatures necessary for cultivating tomatoes. This state’s tomato
industry is believed to have started in the 1870s. Today, Florida is the
nation’s largest producer of fresh tomatoes.
With almost every southern county in the state cultivating tomatoes,
Florida produces virtually all the fresh-market, field-grown tomatoes
in the US from October through June each year, and accounts for about 50 % of all fresh tomatoes produced domestically.