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Oklahoma Agriculture in the Classroom



Oklahoma Vegetable of the Month: Tomatoes

Photo Cherry tomatoes in many colors from Peach Crest Farms, near Stratford, OK. Photo courtesy of Oklahoma State University.

Tomatoes love hot weather but stop producing once temperatures get down to 50 degrees. They ripen best at temperatures around 75 degrees. Savvy gardeners started new plants in July, so there are still plenty of delicious tomatoes available at your local farmer's market.

Of course the most important thing about tomatoes is that they are sooooo good for you. Tomatoes are high in Vitamins A and C and are considered one of the best sources of lycopene, an antioxidant that helps fight cancer and some other diseases.

The heaviest tomato ever grown weighed 7 lb, 12 oz. It was of the cultivar 'Delicious' and was grown by Gordon Graham of Edmond, Oklahoma in 1986.

The Nightshades: Tomatoes, Potatoes and Peppers
Play With Your Food: Tomatoes

Bring a variety of tomatoes to class (from parents who have gardens or from the farmer's market).

  • Students will sort tomatoes by shape, size, and color.

Bring green tomatoes to class.

  • Students will experiment with the best conditions for ripening the tomatoes- on the window sill, in a bag, in a bag with a ripe peach or some other ripe fruit, in a refrigerator.
  • Students will predict which tomatoes will ripen first.
  • Students will observe the ripening tomatoes for several days and record observations.

Tomato varieties have some interesting names: Arkansas Traveler, Big Rainbow, Black Krim, Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, Green Zebra, Mortgage Lifter, and Big Boy, to name a few.

  • Assign each student two or three tomato varieties.
  • Students will write paragraphs or draw pictures describing what they think the tomatoes look like, based on their names.
  • Students will research the varieties, using the internet, seed catalogs or plant books.
  • Students will write stories or plays with the tomato varieties as characters.

Read about Tomatina, a festival held each year in Buñol, Spain, where they take playing with their food (tomatoes) to a new level.

Be a Food Explorer: Cold Tomato Soup

Soup is great for warming you up in the winter time, but have your students ever tried cold soup? Prepare a simple gazpacho (another good vocabulary word) with tomato juice, chopped fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers and herbs like basil or parsley. Add lemon juice and a little olive oil, and chill thoroughly. Serve in small paper cups.

Tomato (1/2 cup, cubed)
amounts per serving
% daily value
calories from fat
total fat
total carbohydrate
dietary fiber
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
Percent daily values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.
Basel, Roberta, From Tomato to Ketchup, Capstone, 2005. (Grades 2-5)
Landau, Elaine, Tomatoes (A True Book), Children's, 2007. (Grades 2-7)
The story of tomatoes, from the early cultivation by the Aztecs to the introduction of the tomato to Europe by the Spanish conquistadors to modern cultivation in backyards, greenhouses and large-scale production. Includes the processing of tomatoes into many products.
Robbins, Ken, Food for Thought: The Story Behind the Things We Eat, Flash Point, 2009. (Grades PreK-3)
Robbins presents a cornucopia of information about apples, oranges, corn, bananas, tomatoes, potatoes, pomegranates, grapes and mushrooms. In addition to sharing interesting bits of trivia, the author offers brief descriptions of related events from history and/or short synopses of the item's appearance in mythology.