Scientifically called Solanum lycopersicum, the tomato is a plant of the Solanaceae family, native to Central and South America, extending from central Mexico to Peru. It arrived in Europe after the 16th century, first in countries such as Spain and Portugal, then Italy, and later in most European countries. Today, tomatoes are indispensable in the cuisine of the whole world. What you probably didn’t know is that, several hundred years ago, tomatoes were considered poisonous.
How Much Do Tomatoes Cost?
You should expect to pay anywhere between $1.5 and $9 per pound of tomatoes at your local grocery store. On the other hand, for a bushel of tomatoes that weigh almost 50 pounds, you will have to pay anywhere between $28 and $38. The cost of tomatoes is influenced by several factors such as the place you buy them from, the time of the year, and the type of tomato.
According to the members of the Chow Hound online forum, the average cost of tomatoes at local farmer’s markets of fresh vegetables is $7 per pound.
Expect to pay almost $2.5 per pound of Roma tomatoes and $4 per pound for the cherry/grape tomatoes.
In the table below are presented the average costs of different types of tomatoes.
|Type of Tomato||Price|
|Plum (Roma)||$2 to $4 per pound|
|Organic Regular||$2.50 to $4 per pound|
|Organic Green||$3 to $4.50 per pound|
|On Vine||$3 to $4.50 per pound|
|Mixed||$3.50 to $5.50 per pint|
|Heirloom||$5.50 to $7.50 per pound|
|Grape||$4.50 to $5.50 per pint|
|Cherry||$3.50 to $5.50 per pint|
Factors that influence the cost
The shipping-point cost refers to having a direct connection with the retail price of field-grown tomatoes. The market price of tomatoes has been affected for a certain period by the changes in the transportation point price. Usually, the retail tomato pricing is affected by labor costs, advertising, containers, rent, fuel, power, and transportation expenses.
When the growing conditions are good and there is a large amount of fresh tomatoes originating from protected agriculture sectors like greenhouses the costs of fresh tomatoes are low. The costs can be even lower due to the warm weather which would determine an increase in supplies of high-quality fresh tomatoes. Also, the price of tomatoes may go down due to the economic recession, changes in market preferences, and the increasing diversity of tomato types.
The cost of locally cultivated tomatoes is higher than the price of commercially grown tomatoes. These price differences are due to the fact that homegrown tomatoes are usually limited, while commercial tomatoes are produced in mass quantities.
Tomatoes are seasonal products, but there are greenhouses and shade houses where tomatoes are cultivated all year round and this results in a low tomato cost. On the other hand, the tomatoes cultivated by local growers and farmers are available only while in season because they have an open-field production.
As we already mentioned, tomatoes are seasonal products like onions, especially those cropped in fields. During the hot season, tomato production is high and this results in lower prices.
Retail price of tomatoes in 2022 vs. 2023
The rise in retail tomato prices from 2022 to 2023 in the U.S. is driven by several inflationary factors:
- Transportation – Gasoline prices up by 30-50% increase in shipping costs for trucks moving tomatoes nationwide. This adds $.10-$.25 per pound for retailers.
- Labor – With wage growth up 5-10%, farmer and grocery worker labor costs feed into consumer pricing, adding $.05-$.15 per lb.
- Fertilizer/Chemicals – Key inputs like fertilizers and pesticides rose 10-30%. This adds $.05-$.15 per lb. for growers.
- Packaging – Plastics and cardboard increased 5-15% with inflation, adding $.05-$.10 per pound.
In total, input inflation from 10-40% across the supply chain necessitates retailers charging $.25-$.75 more per pound for tomatoes in 2023 compared to 2022 to maintain margins. Careful seasonal purchasing provides some relief.
|Tomato Type||2022 Retail Price (per pound or pint)||2023 Retail Price (per pound or pint)|
|Beefsteak/Slicing||$1.00 to $2.50||$1.50 to $3.00|
|Roma/Plum||$1.00 to $1.50||$1.00 to $2.00|
|Cherry/Grape||$2.00 to $3.00 (per pint)||$2.00 to $4.00 (per pint)|
|Organic||$1.50 to $3.00||$2.00 to $4.00|
Important things to consider
One pound of tomatoes would include three medium-sized tomatoes or two large-sized ones. On the other hand, one pint would contain anywhere between 25 and 30 cherry-sized tomatoes.
There are about 4,000 varieties of tomatoes in the world. They are easy to grow, especially in proper lighting. Although most tomatoes are red, there are black, brown, purple, orange, pink, or green varieties as well.
The most well-known varieties are cherry tomatoes, plums, beef heart, beefsteak, yellow, green, black tomatoes, date tomatoes, and Roma cherry tomatoes.
Tomatoes are never kept in the fridge because cold air alters their texture. They should be kept at room temperature to maintain their taste.
While at the market, buy fresh, firm tomatoes, of uniform size or not. Avoid those with wrinkled surfaces, faded spots, and soft ones.
Tomato stalks and leaves are considered poisonous because of a substance called atropine. Their consumption can cause stomach pain and agitation.
The water content of tomatoes is about 95%. The other 5% ingredients are mainly carbohydrates and fiber. Here are the nutrients from a small to medium raw tomato (100 grams), according to the Healthline website:
- Calories: 18
- Water: 95%
- Protein: 0.9 grams
- Carbohydrates: 3.9 grams
- Sugar: 2.6 grams
- Fiber: 1.2 grams
- Fat: 0.2 grams
Tomatoes have 4% carbohydrates, i.e. less than 5 grams of carbohydrates for an average tomato of 120 grams.
Simple sugars, such as glucose and fructose, account for almost 70% of the carbohydrate content.
How to consume tomatoes?
You can eat tomatoes in thousands of ways, given the variety of dishes they are used in. You can consume tomato juice if you want to get all the benefits that these fruits have in the raw state. You can make tomato salad along with other fresh vegetables or preservative-free tomato broth to have throughout the winter.
You can make ketchup at home or pasta sauces, and when you want something quick to eat, simply boil the pasta and put delicious and healthy sauce on top.
There are thousands of dishes that contain tomatoes, but it is best to eat them in their natural state when they are ripe and full of nutrients.
Is the tomato a vegetable or a fruit?
From a botanical point of view, the tomato is a fruit. In fact, in 2001, the European Union officially decided that tomatoes were a fruit, not a vegetable. The reason why tomatoes are fruit is due to the seeds.
The tomato appears and develops from the pistil of a fertilized flower, just like the fruit. As cucumbers, zucchini, or eggplant are also fruits, from a botanical point of view, they grow with the help of seeds.
Why don’t tomatoes taste the same?
Surely, you’ve heard a lot of people say that tomatoes don’t taste the same anymore, or maybe you think the same thing. Why is this happening? Tomatoes in supermarkets and shops are imported tomatoes. When they start to ripen, they produce a gaseous hormone called ethylene. Commercially grown tomatoes are harvested and transported while still green and immature. To make them red before selling them, food companies spray them with artificial ethylene gas.
This process inhibits the development of natural flavors and can lead to tasteless tomatoes. Therefore, locally grown tomatoes may taste better because they are allowed to ripen naturally. That’s why you should go to small producers to buy tomatoes.
However, there are also types that taste just as good, regardless of the environment or cultivation procedures. Cherry tomatoes are juicy and tasty in any season.
If you buy unripe tomatoes, you can speed up the ripe process by wrapping them in a newspaper and keeping them on the kitchen counter for a few days.
How can I save money?
If you are planning on preserving the tomatoes, buy in volume. You may be able to get substantial discounts at the local farmer stands if you buy in bulk. This is also available if you purchase from Sam’s Club or Costco.
In case you purchase online, try to find a supplier that offers free shipping in order to avoid delivery costs.
Become a member of an organization that has Community Supported Agriculture programs. In general, these produce healthier vegetables which are sold and delivered at a better price.
If you consume a large quantity of tomatoes and your home has the available space, grow your own tomatoes. It is not complicated to cultivate these plants and they are among the easiest to grow.