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The South Arkansas Vine Ripe Tomato, Genus Lycopersicon, was adopted by the Seventy-sixth General Assembly on May 16, 1987. The tomato is officially defined as a fruit but is commonly considered a vegetable. The Pink Tomato Festival is held each year in Bradley County.
The tomato is considered a fruit botanically, but is often used as a vegetable. Because of the dual nature of the tomato, the sponsoring legislation adopted the South Arkansas Vine Ripe Pink Tomato as both the official state fruit and the official state vegetable of Arkansas.
In 1987, the Arkansas General Assembly conferred official state symbol status on the pink tomato, long a staple of Arkansas gardens. Act 255, introduced as House Bill 1480, asserted the aesthetic and culinary excellence of the Arkansas-grown tomato and determined that, because it was technically a fruit but generally consumed as a vegetable, it should serve as both in the state's collection of official symbols. The act's wording describes a type rather than specifying a species because there exists no registered breed styled "South Arkansas Vine Ripe Pink Tomato."The measure was introduced by Representative John Lipton of District 90 whose constituency included Bradley County, long associated with Arkansas tomato production.
The state symbol status recognizes the role of the tomato in Arkansas agriculture and memorializes a cropping technique that has lost ground in the market. In the last half of the nineteenth century, Americans embraced the tomato as a healthy staple. Many varieties were grown, mainly for local or regional markets; excess production was canned. By the 1920s, southeast Arkansas market farmers favored strains of tomato that ripened to a pink hue and could be picked and shipped at "breaker"(first ripening). These were possibly descended from such pink "heirloom" strains as the Brandywine and the so-called Cherokee Purple, both identified before 1890. In 1959, Arkansas's commercial tomato production exceeded 290,000 tons, with a market value of more than $2.5 million.
Lycopersicon is the botanical name for the tomato plant. The fruits of these plants are international favorites and there are more varieties sold of it than of any other vegetable. They may be eaten cooked or raw and are a good source of vitamins. The Tomato loves sunshine and is grown as a warm-weather annual, although it is actually a tender perennial. It is grown in greenhouses where summers are too cool for pollination and fruit to set in gardens. The garden varieties of Tomato come from two wild types; L. esculentum and L. pimpinellifolium are originally from western South America. The Tomato was introduced into European gardens in the early part of the sixteenth century, though it wasn't accepted as being edible; this may be possibly because it belongs to the Nightshade family (such as the White Potato, Eggplant, Pepper and other members of the Potato family, Solanaceae) and resembles many plants that were known to be poisonous; it was grown as an interesting ornamental plant. Tomatoes were grown in 1781 by Thomas Jefferson in Virginia, but weren't really known in America as an edible food until after 1834 and it was some years later that they even became popular.
The law designating the South Arkansas vine ripe pink tomato as the official Arkansas state fruit and vegetable is found in the Arkansas Code, Title 1, Chapter 4, Section 1-4-115
Title 1. General Provisions.
Chapter 4. State Symbols, Motto, Etc.
1-4-115. State fruit and vegetable.
It is found and determined by the General Assembly that the South Arkansas Vine Ripe Pink Tomato has a taste, texture, appearance, and aroma second to none and that the tomato is botanically a fruit and used as a vegetable. It is further determined by the General Assembly that Arkansas does not have a state fruit or a state vegetable. Therefore, the South Arkansas Vine Ripe Pink Tomato shall be the official state fruit and the official state vegetable.
History. Acts 1987, No. 255, § 1.
Taxonomic Hierarchy: Tomato
Kingdom: Plantae - Plants
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta - Vascular plants
Superdivision: Spermatophyta - Seed plants
Division: Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida - Dicotyledons
Family: Solanaceae - Potato family
Genus: Solanum L. - nightshade
Species; Solanum lycopersicum L. - garden tomato