Tomato plants are cultivars of Solanum lycopersicum (a member of the Solanaceae or nightshades) that are grown for their edible red fruits (also known as 'tomatoes').
Tomato fruit are savory, can be eaten raw or cooked, and are used in a wide range of dishes, sauces, and even drinks. Confusingly, the fruit is considered a vegetable for culinary purposes and by the US Supreme Court (Nix v. Hedden 1893).
Native to South America, tomatoes were spread around the world after Spanish colonization and are now extremely popular around the world.
Fruit are typically bright red and round, but the wide range of cultivars include yellow, green, fuzzy-skinned, striped, cherry (small), beefsteak (very large), plum (large solid content - ideal for sauces), and pear-shaped.
Tomato plants are perennials in their native habitat but are usually grown as annuals in a warm temperate climate. Tomatoes can be grown in cooler climates using greenhouses or suitable shelter. As they are closely related to chili peppers, they tend to prefer similar conditions and suffer from the same pests, e.g. hornworms, aphids, whiteflies.
Tomatoes contain a range of vitamins and lycopene (a natural antioxidant).
However, in common with most Solanaceae, the leaves and stems contain tropane alkaloids that are toxic. The literature contains records of both humans (via "tomato leaf tea") and dogs being poisoned from tomato leaves. Unripe fruit can also contain some alkaloids although these are generally too small to be dangerous to humans (dogs may still be poisoned).