Why is tomato red? | Lycopene and its function

Why is tomato red?

When you go to the market you can see there are various kinds of fruits and vegetables. Tomato is one of the attractive fruits in the market. The bright red color of the tomato is the reason for that. Tomato is not only an attractive fruit, but it is also a very nutritious and industrial useful food that can be easily found around the world. Why is tomato red? Before we discuss this, let’s see agricultural information about tomatoes. Also, the history and the cultivation of tomatoes.

Tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum) are flowering plants in the nightshade family (Solanaceae) that widely farm for their edible fruits. Tomatoes are a good source of vitamin C and the phytochemical lycopene. It is classified as a vegetable for nutritional purposes according to its nutritional components. The fruits widely eat raw in salads, cook as a vegetable, and use as a component in a variety of prepared recipes. They also use for pickling. Furthermore, processing consumes a considerable portion of the global tomato output; products include canned tomatoes, tomato juice, ketchup, puree, paste, and “sun-dried” tomatoes or dehydrated pulp.


The wild species is assumed to have originated in South America’s Andes Mountains, primarily in Peru and Ecuador. It was domesticated in pre-Columbian Mexico. The tomato was brought to Europe by the Spanish in the early 16th century. Also, Spanish and Italians appear to have been the first to eat it.

When considering tomato, it was first produced as an ornamental plant in France and northern Europe. It was regarded with mistrust as food since botanists recognized it as a product of the toxic belladonna and deadly nightshade. The neurotoxic solanine is in the roots and leaves of the tomato plant, making them poisonous. These things are very important facts about tomatoes. 

Also, tomatoes were given the name Pomodoro (“golden apple”) by the Italians, leading to the supposition that the first tomatoes known to Europeans were yellow. It’s been suggested that the French named it pomme d’amour (“love apple”) because of its aphrodisiac properties.

According to some academics, the tomato was first taken for a type of eggplant, to which it is a near relative. Because eggplant was a favorite vegetable of the Arabs, it was given the name pomme des Mours (“apple of the Moors”), and Pomodoro and pomme d’amour are likely corruptions of that term.

Tomatoes were brought from Europe to North America. In 1781, Thomas Jefferson is said to have raised them at Monticello. When considering tomato, it was first utilized for food in Louisiana in 1812, but not until 1835 in the northeastern states. It was not until the early twentieth century that it gained broad appeal in the United States. The plant is currently commercially farming all over the world.

This is the history of tomatoes briefly that we consider under the topic of “Why is tomato red?”

Physical description and cultivation

Here, we are going to consider the physical description and cultivation of tomatoes. Tomato plants are usually heavily branched, spreading 60–180 cm. Those are trailing while ripening. However, a few varieties are compact and upright. The leaves are hairy and have a strong odor. Also, those are pinnately complex and can grow up to 45 cm long. Yellow five-petaled flowers with a diameter of 2 cm, are pendant and clustered.

There are berries with a diameter of 1.5 to 7.5 cm or greater and they consider as fruits. They are often red, scarlet, or yellow in color. However, green and purple variations exist. Their shape ranges from almost spherical to oval, elongate, and pear-shaped. Each fruit has at least two cells containing tiny seeds encased in a jelly-like pulp.

Also, the plant prefers warm weather and lots of sunlight. Thus it generally grows in hothouses in colder climates. To keep the stems and fruits off the ground, tomatoes can frequently stack, tie, or cage. Also, continuous watering requires avoiding blossom-end rot and fruit breaking.

When considering pests and diseases, bacterial wilt, early blight, mosaic virus, fusarium wilt, nematodes, and tomato hornworms are among the pests and illnesses that can affect the plants. We can use various methods to overcome these issues such as crop rotation, the use of fungicides and insecticides, and the planting of resistant types.

A closely related species, the currant tomato (S. pimpinellifolium), has been utilized by breeders to hybridize various pest- and disease-resistant tomato types. This is very important when considering the control of pests and diseases. 

Here we mainly considered the physical distribution and cultivation of tomatoes. Now I think you have that knowledge and let’s look into our main topic.

Why is tomato red?

Why is tomato red? What makes leaves green and tomatoes red? When considering these things, plant pigments are behind this red color.

Role of Pigments in Plants

There are three major pigments in plants. Those are chlorophylls, carotenoids, and flavonoids. 

Chlorophylls are green pigments. They give plants their color. Carotenoids are the pigments that give foods their yellow, orange, and red colors. Also, there are some other colors. In addition to red and yellow, the presence of flavonoids can produce blue and purple colors. The incredible spectrum of colors we see in the plant kingdom is created by the mixing of these diverse plant pigments. 

When considering carotenoids, there are two categories and those are carotenes and xanthophylls. Carotenes are carbon and hydrogen atoms in a molecule. Xanthophylls include oxygen atoms in addition to carbon and hydrogen atoms. Carotenoids serve two purposes. To begin with, they contribute to photosynthesis by transmitting some of the light energy they absorb to chlorophylls. Second, by releasing excess energy in the form of heat, they defend the plant against photodamage. Plant cells’ plastids produce carotenoids.

Tomatoes and lycopene

Tomatoes come in a variety of colors. There’s no denying that rich red color, whether you’re eating cherry tomatoes in a salad or a thick slice of beefsteak tomato on a cheeseburger. Lycopene is the pigment that is responsible for the red color of tomato fruit. Many studies have linked lycopene to potential health advantages, including lowering the incidence of some cancers. Cooking tomato fruit increases their nutritional worth, according to other studies, because your body is better able to absorb lycopene from cooked tomatoes. In tomato plants, lycopene isn’t the only pigment. Chlorophylls can be found in all green plants, as well as tomato leaves. The chlorophylls break down and the yellow carotenoids become visible when the leaves become old and ready to fall off. This is similar to the color change seen in some autumn leaves.

However, if you’re looking for tomatoes in a garden, you can have some difficulty if you’re looking for the color red. Tomatoes aren’t as vivid red when they’re growing on the vine as they are when they’re ripe and ready to eat. Instead, they’re a shade of green. The reason for this is that, in addition to lycopene, tomatoes also contain beta-carotene and xanthophylls, which are carotenoids. These pigments in tomato fruit function as antioxidants to protect your cells when consumed. Tomato fruits do not normally produce anthocyanins, unlike eggplant and pepper fruits. Although anthocyanins can be found in tomato leaf tissue.

What exactly is going on here? 

Why is tomato red? Now you know the reason behind it. Also, let’s consider some other valuable factors related to tomatoes further. 

Tomatoes owe their color-changing transformation according to two pigments that they use for photosynthesis. Those are chlorophyll and lycopene. Now you know that the lycopene is red while chlorophyll is green. When tomatoes are young, they are mostly chlorophyll-rich. This is what gives them the green hue you see on the vine. However, as they grow older, they begin to change. Days get shorter and temperatures drop as harvest season approaches. Chlorophyll begins to dissolve at this point, and lycopene takes control. From the outside, you can watch this process occur as the red coloring of lycopene slowly changes tomatoes from green to red. This transformation can only begin after the tomatoes have reached the full green stage. 


Then tomatoes begin to create ethylene. It is an odorless, tasteless, and invisible chemical gas. Ethylene gas uses to trigger the ripening of tomatoes and other fruits. It’s the reason bananas bruise, for example. Tomatoes turn red and get softer as their sugar levels rise and their acid levels fall. It indicates that they are ready to eat. 

While tomatoes can take months to grow, the ripening process happens quickly and over a short period of time. That’s why the majority of farmers pick tomatoes when they’re still green on the vine. Ethylene gas uses to treat tomatoes when they deliver to the market to speed up the ripening process. So, they arrive at stores ripe and ready to eat.

Tomatoes do not all turn red at the same time. Scientists have discovered that smaller tomato types, such as cherry tomatoes, ripen more quickly than larger types, such as beefsteak tomatoes. There are various factors that affect this situation. Temperature is one of them and it can influence the ripening process. 

Lycopene does not readily form in extremely cold or extremely hot temperatures. The temperature should be between 50 and 85 ° F for tomatoes to ripen correctly.

Should you throw away green tomatoes?

When considering this thing, tomatoes are cultivating in various areas. If you cultivate tomatoes at home, you’ll occasionally come across a green tomato that has fallen off the vine. Similarly, you might buy a tomato that is still mostly green at the shop. If you have an unripe tomato like that, you can place it in a paper bag and wait a few days. Then the paper bag will retain ethylene gas produced by the tomato as long as it has reached the full green stage. The ethylene gas stored inside the tomato will help it reach full ripeness in just a few days. So, don’t throw away green tomatoes.

According to the above information, carotenoids are the reason why tomatoes are red in color. These carotenoids, in particular lycopene, are potent antioxidants. Reactive oxygen species can induce oxidative damage, which can lead to a variety of chronic diseases. 

Lycopene and disease prevention

When considering lycopene, it is the most effective quencher of these free radicals and singlet oxygen species. It plays an important role in disease prevention. As a result of its metabolic features, lycopene can shield cellular components from damage produced by reactive oxygen species. Chronic inflammation, sunshine, temperature, and normal metabolic processes can all produce reactive species. Lycopene’s antioxidant effects may protect DNA, lipids, low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and proteins, potentially preventing atherogenesis and carcinogenesis. Atherosclerosis is a disease that causes by the oxidation of LDL, which transports cholesterol into the bloodstream and causes ischemic stroke and heart attack.


Why is tomato red? Chlorophylls are the pigments that give plants their green hues. Also, now you know that the pigment lycopene is responsible for the red color of tomatoes. In tomato plants, lycopene isn’t the only pigment. This metamorphosis can only begin after the tomatoes have reached the full green stage. The temperature is one of the reasons for the ripening process. Various chronic diseases may occur due to oxidative damages caused by reactive oxygen species and tomatoes which contain antioxidant lycopene helps to minimize those kinds of risks.

Now you have gathered many valuable facts about tomatoes according to the above information. I hope that the above facts are very important for your knowledge. Not only these things but also you can know many facts that are related to foods by staying with us. So, stay with us and consider following us on Facebook and Instagram

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