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As summer starts to roll out its smothering blanket of heat across Japan, the markets begin to fill with some of the best produce of the year. Though tomatoes are now often grown in hothouses and available year-round, they are at their best when raised outdoors during the months when the sun beats down, warming the fields and ripening the fruit.

The tomato has finally surpassed the cabbage in total gross weight production around the world, topping 85 million metric tons last year. In terms of cuisine and economics, it has become the most globally important vegetable crop (yes, technically, it is a vine fruit, but its pulp is used as a vegetable). In Japan, while the daikon and other crops surpass the tomato in sheer production volume, it has become the most valuable crop because of its high retail price, grossing 1.7 trillion yen in sales in 2000.

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