I always raise an eyebrow and struggle to say nothing when occasional acquaintances get something very simple about simple foods very wrong. But I always remember that they don’t share the background in food product education that you and I do. Still, I think it’s really important that we all know at least something about the foods we all eat…
Most Tomatoes are bright red, but recently-popular heritage
varieties may be any colour from light green to deep
purple, with a fantastic range of flavours.
Have a little fun
Try this: All day today, wherever you go, whoever you talk to, ask them what a Tomato is. The majority will look at you like you just landed from another planet and answer, “Vegetable.” Others will smile knowingly and say, “Fruit.” Still others will take off their wire-rimmed glasses and, cleaning them on their shirt tails, say (per Wikipedia), “[It] is the edible, often red berry of the plant Solanum lycopersicum, commonly known as a Tomato Plant.”
Yes, the Tomato is technically, officially, a berry.
Then ask folks where it originated. Some folks will say, “Italy.” Okay. A lot of people assume that. Others will try to impress you by recounting the old story that Tomatoes came back from China with Marco Polo. Romantic and exotic. But stills wrong. The truth is, Tomatoes originated in South and Central America, where the Aztecs were known to have used them on a daily basis at the time the Spanish arrived to conquer them. The Aztec word ‘tomatl’ became the Spanish ‘Tomata’, and by the time the Spanish had brought them back to Europe and introduced them to all the Mediterranean cultures as well as other cultures the Spanish had colonized, they were known by variants on that name.
You may have noticed that Potatoes were also brought back from South America by the Spanish. Even more of an amazing coincidence, although we eat its tuber, not its berry, the Potato is, like the Tomato, a member of the Nightshade family. The berry or tuber of most of those plants is edible, but steer clear of the leaves, roots and stems. They can be deadly poisonous. That’s why we always carefully remove the green ‘eyes’ from Potatoes.
Versatile, healthy and umamious…
According to the Tomato contains a whole encyclopedia of nutrients and offers a unique, tangy flavour that complements a wide variety of other foods.
According to Healthline.com, 1 small (100 g) raw Tomato (official USDA information):
- Calories: 18
- Water: 95%
- Protein: 0.9 grams
- Carbs: 3.9 grams
- Sugar: 2.6 grams
- Fiber: 1.2 grams
- Fat: 0.2 grams
It also contains:
- Vitamin C: One medium-sized tomato can provide about 28 percent of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI).
- Potassium: An essential mineral, beneficial for blood pressure control and heart disease prevention.
- Vitamin K1: Also known as phylloquinone, vitamin K is important for blood clotting and bone health.
- Folate (vitamin B9). Folate is important for normal tissue growth and cell function.
All shapes and sizes
Tomatoes come in all shapes and sizes, from Grape and Cherry Salad-ready minis; to oval, fleshy, saucy Romas; to Big, juicy coreless Beefsteak slicers. Each of these Tomato formats had found it’s place of prominance in one branch of cuisine or another.
Thanks to the global import/export trade network and year-round cultivation in almost all climates (winter cropping via greenhouse growing), Tomatoes are available at relatively reasonable prices at all the usual produce outlets near you.
A very few people have shown allergy-like sensitivity and allergy symptoms to Tomatoes. But the vast majority of folks are not troubled by any such effects – or any others, for that matter.
So eat your Tomatoes free of doubt or guilt!
There’s hardly anything that’s as good for you or as versatile as the big red berry! They’re also among the easiest garden staples you can grow – a good starter plant if you are just getting into produce cultivation. You’ve never really tasted as fresh and flavourful a Tomato as one just picked from your own garden. And they’re easy to freeze and can, too, if that’s your goal.
Never be without a Tomato or two in your pantry!
~ Maggie J.