Paragon Tomato

From Ohio History Central

Many horticulturalists attribute the modern tomato to Reynoldsburg, Ohio, resident Alexander W. Livingston. Livingston spent two decades breeding his "Paragon" tomato before succeeding in 1870. Tomatoes existed before Livingston, but they were small fruits with a sour taste. Livingston's Paragon was much larger and had a sweeter taste. Over the next twenty-eight years, Livingston developed more than thirty other varieties of tomatoes.

In 1965, the Ohio General Assembly made tomato juice Ohio's official beverage. Adoption of an official beverage coincided with the Tomato Festival held in Reynoldsburg, Ohio. The Tomato Festival, which occurs every year, honors Livingston and the tomato's importance to Ohio's economy.

Ohio Indians and early white settlers did not grow tomatoes originally. Many people feared that tomatoes were poisonous, but by the 1840s, many state residents planted tomatoes in their gardens. By the late 1800s, Ohio farmers began to grow tomatoes commercially. In 1965, Ohio was the second leading producer of tomato juice in the United States, ranking behind only California. Tomato growing and processing remains an important component of Ohio's economy today. In 2002, Ohio farmers harvested 6,300 acres of tomatoes, averaging almost twenty-four tons of tomatoes per acre. This same year, Ohio processing plants produced 149,630 tons of processed tomatoes. While farmers grow tomatoes across Ohio, the heaviest concentration of tomato farming takes place in the northwestern quadrant of the state.

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