The tomato is an annual plant that is originally from Peru and was imported into Europe in the 16th century. Although Italian cuisine is famous for using many tomato-based dishes and sauces, the tomato was considered a peasants' fruit until the mid-18th century, when it was widely accepted across the country.
It is cultivated for its red fruits, which are used cooked or raw, in sauces, salads or used as juice. When chosen at the store, look for tomatoes that are firm, fleshy and shiny.
There are many varieties of tomatoes, including, but not limited to beefsteak tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, plum tomatoes and round tomatoes.