The tomato is a flowering plant native to South America. It is a member of the nightshade family and closely related to the potato. The tomato plant typically grows to a height of 1-3 meters and has a weak, hairy stem. The leaves are arranged alternately on the stem and are typically dark green in color. The plant produces small yellow or white flowers, which develop into the fruit we know as tomatoes. The fruit itself is typically red, but can also be yellow, orange, green, or purple.
Indeterminate tomato plants are perennials in their native habitat, but are cultivated as annuals. Determinate, or bush, plants are annuals that stop growing at a certain height and produce a crop all at once.
Tomatoes prefer warm, sunny growing conditions and well-drained, humus-rich soil. They can be grown in a variety of soil types, but perform best in soil with a pH between 6 and 6.8. In order to cultivate tomatoes successfully, growers may need to provide support for the plant (such as a stake or cage) to prevent the fruit from weighing down the stem, and may also need to water and fertilize the plant regularly. Tomatoes are generally considered to be frost-sensitive, so in areas with cold winters they may need to be grown in a greenhouse or indoors. There are a great number of cultivars.
The edible parts of the tomato plant are the fruit and the leaves. The fruit can be eaten raw or cooked, and is commonly used in a variety of dishes, such as salads, sandwiches, and pasta. The leaves, although not commonly eaten, are also edible and have a slightly bitter taste. After harvest, tomatoes can be stored at room temperature, in a cool place, or in the refrigerator.