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Get your tomato goodness by the bushel – April is Fresh Florida Tomato Month

We all know that tomatoes are good for us – they're chock full of anti-oxidants, they have no fat, very little salt, and pack a load vitamin C and potassium.

The best tomatoes come from right here in Florida. Florida tomatoes are grown to the toughest standards in the world.
Courtesy of the Florida Tomato Committee, www.floridatomatoes.org

We all further know that Floridians love our fresh tomatoes, red ripe and juicy, either warm off the vine or chilled and sliced for burgers and salads.

What you may not know is where the best tomatoes come from.

Why, right here in Florida. Florida tomatoes are grown to the toughest standards in the world.

Yes, tomato lovers and other foodies, Fresh Florida Tomato Month has arrived. Learn even more about tomatoes! Read the list pages, too.

Florida – a big tomato in produce

According to the Florida Tomato Committee, Florida is the nation’s largest producer of fresh tomatoes.

Because of our long growing season, Florida farmers produce almost of all the United States' fresh-to-market, field-grown, vine-ripened tomatoes every year from October to June.

And have for decades.

As of October 2012, the most recent figures available from the USDA, Florida is second only to California in domestic tomato production.

Tomatoes comprise nearly one-third the total value of all fresh vegetables produced in Florida each year, estimated value in excess of $619 million.

In the Sunshine State where citrus is king, that's putting up some pretty impressive numbers.

Tomato trivia

So what's a national feast month without a little trivia?

Trust Your Examiner, you probably had no idea that –

  • Although tomatoes are often grouped with vegetables, they are in fact fruits of the vine like grapes.
  • In spite of this, in 1893, the United States Supreme Court ruled, for the purpose of levying a tax, that the tomatoes are vegetables.
  • Florida ships more than 1.1 billion pounds of fresh tomatoes yearly to the US, Canada and abroad. That's nearly one pound for every person in India.
  • The US is second to China in tomato production worldwide.
  • US per capita consumption of tomatoes has increased 50% in the last 40 years to 19.3 pounds eaten every year by every American.
  • The cost of growing and harvesting Florida tomatoes averages nearly $12,000 per acre.
  • Florida tomatoes come in these varieties: rounds (for tomato juice), plums (for tomato paste), cherries and grapes (for salads and snacks) and beefsteaks (for slicing).
  • In the US, fresh tomatoes rank third in popularity behind potatoes and lettuce.
  • Although they probably made it to Florida with the Spanish, tomatoes are indigenous to Central and South America. Called xitomatl by the Aztecs, tomatoes sailed back to Spain with the conquistadors and made their into many Mediterranean and African cuisines.
  • Americans started growing and eating tomatoes in the 1800’s.
  • Our third President, Thomas Jefferson, was the first American to both grow and eat tomatoes. By 1870, farmers were growing tomatoes commercially for sales at market.
  • The first major farms to grow tomatoes for market in the United States were in Manatee County in the west-central region of Florida.

About the Florida Tomato Committee

The Florida Tomato Committee was established under to Federal Marketing Agreement and Order No. 966 to regulate the handling of tomatoes. The committee has authority over the tomatoes grown commercially in the counties of Pinellas, Hillsborough, Polk, Osceola, Brevard and all counties situated south. For all tomatoes shipped elsewhere in Florida, across the country and around the world, the Florida Tomato Committee sets strict standards for grade, size, quality and maturity.

The Committee also funds research and development projects and marketing promotions that focus on maximizing Florida tomato movement, including consumer and marketing research and customized marketing programs.

Florida Tomatoes

  • 800 Trafalgar Court, #300
  • Maitland, Fla. 32751
  • Contact: Samantha Daves, Director, Education & Promotion
  • Email: samantha@floridatomatoes.org
  • Phone: 407-660-1949
  • Fax: 407-660-1656

www.floridatomatoes.org

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©2014 All rights reserved.

OFFICIAL BIO: K Truitt is a second-generation, native Floridian born in Jacksonville. Truitt worked in public higher education for 25 years and knows newspaper publishing, printing and graphic design. Contact: kt.4examiner@yahoo.com