The tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) is the fruit of a perennial vine that is native to South America. As a member of the nightshade family, the tomato was thought to be poisonous or at least unfit to eat for hundreds of years by Europeans, who grew it mainly as decoration. Technically, the tomato is a berry, though it is classified as a vegetable for most intents and purposes.

The tomato was probably brought back to Europe by either Christopher Columbus or Hernán Cortés near the turn of the 16th century. It was certainly eaten in the Aztec empire (centered around today's Mexico City) for hundreds of years before it was encountered by Europeans, where recipes using tomatoes show up starting in 1692. 

Today, there are thousands of cultivars of the tomato, grown for a variety of reasons. The most common supermarket tomato is slightly off-round, bright red in color, and grown to survive picking, packing and transport. These are picked green and ripened with ethylene gas. Heirloom varieties are grown for their interesting colors and shapes, and have an intense "tomato" flavor.

Tomatoes range in size from the [ingredient=cherry-tomato cherry tomato] (about the size of a large marble) to the softball sized oxheart and beefsteak varieties. The largest tomato on record was a "Delicious", and weighed almost eight pounds. Tomatoes range in color from the typical red, to yellow, orange, purple, and black. Tomatoes can have ribs and stripes, which are especially seen on heirloom varieties. 

As a member of the nightshade family, the green parts of the tomato plant contain poisonous alkaloids such as tomatine and atropine, though in small amounts. Still, care should be taken using tomato leaves either culinarily, or in cocktails.

Tomatoes have a multitude of culinary uses. They can be eaten raw, turned into puree or paste, dried in the sun, and juiced. They can be picked and eaten green (as salsa, chutney, or breaded and fried). 

Tomatoes have a distinctive aroma and flavor. While they are sweet, their sweetness is somewhat neutral, and they have a distinctive green/sharp/musky aroma similar to zucchini or green beans. 

For cocktails, the most common use for tomatoes is the Bloody Mary, which calls for tomato juice, among other things. 


Some popular cocktails containing Tomato