This passage is about how tomatoes came to be a popular food.

Lexile Level: 1080L

Categories: History Animals & Nature

Although people in other countries have eaten them for centuries, people in the United States thought tomatoes were poisonous until about 100 years ago. Tomatoes belong to the nightshade family of plants, some of which are indeed poisonous. Tomatoes originated in South America and were gradually introduced into Mexico, where they were called "tomati" by ancient Mexican Indians who grew them. Italians were probably the first Europeans to grow and eat tomatoes, beginning around 1550. Soon after, the French began growing them as decorative plants they called "love apples." Thomas Jefferson, a president as well as a farmer, was one of the first in the U.S. to grow tomatoes in the late 1700s. Now, tomatoes are an important cash crop for states such as California. Today, we know that tomatoes are far from poisonous. They are quite good for you. Some studies suggest that eating tomatoes, both fresh and processed in soups, sauces, and beverages, may even help reduce the risk of some kinds of cancer.

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