Tomatoes contain high concentrations of lycopene, a dietary carotenoid which is an antioxidant that fights free radicals that can potentially lead to cancer, heart disease and premature aging. Cooking tends to release the fat-soluble lycopenes from the fruits cell, making these antioxidants readily available.
Tomatoes are also high in vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamin K, and are great sources of potassium, iron, folate and phosphorus. A medium tomato has as much fibre as a slice of whole grain bread, and contains about 35 calories. The tomato is a luscious fruit we know fondly as a vegetable.
Selecting your Tomatoes… There are over 7,000 varieties of tomato, with colours ranging from green stripes to dark purples. They can weigh several pounds and they can be as small as a grape. Look for heavy tomatoes that are fragrant. Heirloom varieties look a lot less perfect and tend to be fragile Because of this, you probably won’t see them in the grocery store. The heirloom tomatoes I buy at my farmer’s market are by far the tastiest I have ever had. Don’t store tomatoes in the refrigerator. The cold will render them bland and makes the flesh kind of pulpy.
If you want to peel a tomato, here is a neat trick:
-cut out the stem
-using tongs or a slotted spoon, dip the tomato into boiling water for 15 seconds.
-remove and place in ice water to cool.
-the skin should slip off easily!
Tomatoes are native to western South America and Central America. In 1519 Cortez discovered tomatoes growing in montezuma’s gardens and brought seeds back to Europe. They were first planted as ornamental plants, but not eaten. In Spain and Italy they were known as pomo d’oro, meaning ‘gold apples’, and the french called them pommes d’amour, or ‘love apples’, as they were thought to have aphrodisiacal qualities. French botanist Tournefort provided the latin name for tomato: Lycopersiconesculentum, which translates to ”wolf peach”; round and luscious like a peach, but thought to be poisonous: “poison in a palatable package which was used to destroy wolves”.
Tomatoes were once thought to be dangerous; up until the 18th century, physicians warned that tomatoes could cause appendicitis and stomach cancer. But Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson of Salem, New Jersey had brought the tomato home from abroad in 1806. He had been offering a prize yearly for the largest grown, but the public considered the tomato an ornamental plant. On September 26, 1820, Colonel Johnson stood on the steps of the Salem courthouse and consumed an entire basket of tomatoes to prove they were safe. He attracted over 2,000 people who were certain he was killing himself! By 1842 farm journals of the time were touting the tomato as the latest craze….