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The tomato is considered a vegetable in cooking, and are best vine ripened until deep red. Most commercially produced tomatoes are picked while still in a green and unyielding state. This is done to reduce damage during transportation and to increase shelf life. 

Unfortunately, they are often pale and tasteless when sold. Additionally, most commercial breeds are selected for yield and keeping qualities, instead of for flavor. So, even vine ripened tomatoes can be disappointing.

Tomatoes should be kept at a cool room temperature, but never refrigerated. High cooking temperatures quickly destroy fresh tomato flavor, but can be useful to disable enzymes that tend to liquefy a tomato that has been injured (sliced, mashed, or shredded, for example).

Tomatoes are rich in vitamins and antioxidants. They contain MSG. The seeds are high in fiber and bitter-tasting tannins. The green parts are mildly poisonous, which is not really surprising, as tomatoes are closely related to both nightshade and tobacco.

As its fruit was originally believed to be poisonous when introduced into Europe, the tomato was used solely as an ornamental plant during the 16th and 17th centuries. The first traces of its use as a food there, date back to the first half of the 18th century. Only in the second half of the 19th century did widespread cultivation of the tomato as food begin (mainly in southern Italy and in France).

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