Table of content A-Z




Botanical name: Lycopersicon lycopersicum



The tomato originally grew as a wild tropical plant in Peru. Christopher Columbus brought it to Europe from his second trip to the Americas. At first it was used only as a decorative plant; its triumphal march into the kitchen began in the 18th century.

As a member of the nightshade family, it was long said to be poisonous. Today it is one of the most important vegetables in the entire world.


Tomatoes can be bought all year round; they are most abundant between July and October. During the winter the tomatoes we buy come largely from the Canary Islands, while in the spring they are imported mostly from the Netherlands. Domestic tomatoes from outdoor cultivation are available from July to October. September is the best time to get fully ripened German tomatoes grown outdoors.

The taste of fully ripened outdoor tomatoes far surpasses that of watery greenhouse tomatoes that are available all year.

Appearance, taste, characteristics

Most tomatoes are red, but there are also yellow and purple varieties. Tomatoes are divided into four main groups, each with many different varieties.

A. Round tomatoes:

Round tomatoes predominate, both in cultivation and in marketing. As the name suggests, they are round; they are firm, have a uniform colour and two to three locular cavities which contain flat seeds in a gelatinous mass. Round tomatoes are in demand mainly for fresh consumption.

B. Beefsteak tomatoes:

Beefsteak tomatoes are larger than round tomatoes; they have more locular cavities and fewer seeds. They are sweeter than round tomatoes because they contain fewer fruit acids.

C. Cherry tomatoes, cocktail tomatoes:

Cherry tomatoes are distinctly smaller than round tomatoes and are closest to the original tomatoes in their size. They have a very fruity aroma and a sweet taste. Meanwhile, they are available in red, orange or yellow. Their small size makes them popular with consumers, as they make a good between-meal snack.

D. Plum tomatoes, egg-shaped tomatoes:

Characteristic is their bright red colour, their thick pulp and the small number of seeds. Plum tomatoes are oval. They are frequently used for canning or other industrial processing, but they are also increasingly being sold fresh. They are very aromatic and sweet and no longer an insiders' tip. The plum tomatoes that are sold in Germany are usually from Italy or Spain.


Carotenoids are responsible for the colour of the fruit, particularly lycopene in the red varieties at 95%. It is one of the secondary plant substances and is the subject of much research at present.

Studies have shown that greenhouse tomatoes contain less vitamin C than open-land tomatoes do. The intensity of sunlight during the ripening process also has an influence on the vitamin-C content. Vine-ripened tomatoes are richer in vitamin C compared with tomatoes that are harvested while still green.

100 g contain:

Tomato, fresh
Tomato, tinned
Energie (kcal)
Wasser (g)
Eiweiß (g)
Fett (g)
< 1
< 1
Kohlenhydrate (g)
Ballaststoffe (g)
Vitamin C (mg)
Vitamin A (RÄ) (µg)
Folsäure (µg)
Kalium (mg)
Natrium (mg)
Calcium (mg)
Magnesium (mg)
Eisen (mg)
Lykopin (mg)

*1: Vitamine sind sehr empfindlich gegenüber Hitze und können beim konservieren zerstört worden sein.

k.A.*2: keine Angabe verfügbar

*3: Natrium wird beim Konservieren häufig in Form von Kochsalz zugegeben.

Harmful substances

Green, unripe tomatoes and the herbaceous parts of the plant contain the natural toxin solanine. For this reason eating unripe tomatoes is not recommended.

Tomatoes are one of the vegetables with a low nitrate content. They have less than 500 mg per kilogram.

Quality criteria, optimal storage conditions

When you are buying tomatoes, look for firm fruits without spots. A ripe tomato should yield slightly to finger pressure. Many consumers prefer tomatoes on the vine, because they smell more aromatic. Whether they also taste better remains open.

A round, even shape is not a sign of quality in tomatoes; the more angular beefsteak tomatoes are often more aromatic.

Tomatoes are a vegetable that is sensitive to cold. They should not be stored at temperatures below 8–10°C. Storage in the refrigerator is appropriate only for very ripe tomatoes.

Form of consumption, use, processing, practical tips for preparation

Tomatoes have manifold uses. They can be eaten raw, e.g., in salads or as an appetizer. Wash the tomato and cut away the green stem end before eating. It contains the natural toxin solanine.

Further, tomatoes can be used in stews and casseroles, as a sauce or soup, grilled, gratinéed or filled.

Industrial processing is also varied. Well-known products are tomato paste, tomato ketchup, tinned tomatoes and tomato juice. Perhaps you are also familiar with tomato purée, tomato chutney, sun-dried tomatoes, powdered tomatoes or tomato flakes.

Seasoning tip

Seasonings that go well with fresh tomatoes are basil, chives, dill, parsley, thyme, tarragon, garlic and onions.

Seasonings suitable for cooked tomatoes are oregano, sage, thyme, parsley, garlic and onions.





  This article was written by




  With the website the Fritz Terfloth Foundation of Münster offers consumers independent and competent information about plant foods and their health effects. All texts are subject to German copyright law. Information about the conditions for use of the texts by third parties can be found here.