Tomato — The tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) is a plant in the Solanaceae or nightshade family, as are its close cousins tobacco, chili peppers, potato, and eggplant. The tomato is native to Central, South, and southern North America from Mexico to Peru. It is a perennial, often grown outdoors in temperate climates as an annual, typically reaching to 1–3 m (3 to 10 ft) in height, with a weak, woody stem that often vines over other plants.
The leaves are 10–25 cm long, pinnate, with 5–9 leaflets, each leaflet up to 8 cm long, with a serrated margin; both the stem and leaves are densely glandular-hairy. The flowers are 1–2 cm across, yellow, with five pointed lobes on the corolla; they are borne in a cyme of 3–12 together. The word tomato derives from a word in the Nahuatl language, tomatl. The specific name, lycopersicum, means “wolf-peach” (compare the related species S. lycocarpum, whose scientific name means “wolf-fruit”, common name “wolf-apple”).
There are a great many tomato cultivars grown for various purposes. Heirloom cultivars are becoming increasingly popular, particularly among home gardeners and organic producers, since they tend to produce more interesting and flavorful crops at the possible cost of some disease resistance. Hybrid plants remain common, since they tend to be heavier producers and sometimes combine unusual characteristics of heirloom tomatoes with the ruggedness of conventional commercial tomatoes.