A member of the nightshade family (along with aubergines, peppers and chillies), tomatoes are in fact a fruit, but their affinity for other savoury ingredients means that they are usually classed as a vegetable.
Tomatoes originated in western South America, crossed the Atlantic to Spain with the conquistadors in the 16th century, but only finally caught on in northern Europe in the 19th century. Today they're one of the most important ingredients available, and are especially indispensible in Mediterranean cookery. The skin, flesh and seeds can all be eaten, but the green leaves are toxic, so should always be discarded.
The number of varieties run into the thousands, and they vary in size from the huge beefsteak to tiny cherry tomatoes, but most have a sweet, gently tangy flavour and are good both raw and cooked.
Tomato - Varieties/Availability
Peak season for tomatoes in California is from June through October and in Florida in July and October. However, because of the favorable climates in both California and Florida, tomatoes are available year-round. The increased production of hothouse tomatoes has also extended the peak season in some regions.
Vine-ripe tomatoes are tomatoes that are grown under conventional conditions in an open field. They are ripened on the vine.
Greenhouse tomatoes are grown in greenhouses where they are not exposed to the elements.
Cherry tomatoes are small round tomatoes great for use in salads.
Grape tomatoes are smaller than cherry tomatoes and have a teardrop shape and a sweet taste.
Roma tomatoes are smaller than large, round tomatoes and are more oval in shape. They are often used for making salsa.
Choose tomatoes that give slightly to firm pressure and have a rich red color. Avoid tomatoes that are too soft or have apparent bruising.
Tomato - Handling, Storage & Care
Tomatoes should not be refrigerated. Doing so slows down the ripening process and often takes away much of the flavors that are developed during the ripening process.
The California tomato Commission suggests keeping tomatoes at room temperature — or between 55 degrees and 70 degrees — in order for them to develop a good flavor and aroma.
Tomatoes can be ripened at home by placing them on a counter, in a fruit bowl or inside a brown paper bag for a few days until they are slightly soft and rich red in color. Tomatoes should be ripened stem side up to avoid bruising, and ripe tomatoes will hold at room temperature for two to three days.
Tomatoes are excellent in salads and salsas. They are popular sliced and used as a topping for sandwiches and hamburgers.
Tomato-based sauces are popular in Italian cooking. Cooking tomatoes release the micronutrient lycopene, which is thought to help prevent cancer. Tomatoes can also be stewed or crushed for use in casseroles and chili. To quickly remove the skin from tomatoes, boil for 15-30 seconds. Rinse under cold water and peel.
Tomatoes can be stuffed and baked. To prepare the tomato for stuffing, cut a small piece off the bottom to make the tomato sit sturdily. Cut off the top ¼ of the tomato. Use a spoon to scoop out the innards. Set the shell upside down for 15 minutes to give it a chance to dry.
Tomatoes that are frozen can only be used in cooked dishes. The tomatoes will not be firm enough for raw usage when they are thawed. Boil in boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove skins and core. Tomatos can be frozen whole or chopped into pieces. Place in freezer-safe containers and freeze.
Nutritive Values of Tomato : Per 100 gm.
Vitamin A : 1,000 I.U.
Vitamin B : Thiamine .06 mg.;
Vitamin C : 23 mg.
Vitamin K : amount uncertain
Calcium : 11 mg.
Iron : .6 mg.
Phosphorus : 27 mg.
Potassium : 360 mg.
Protein : 1.0 gm.
Calories : 20
Helath Benefits of Tomato
- A large consumption of tomato can help improve skin texture and color.
- Tomato is a good blood purifier.
- Tomato helps in cases of congestion of the liver (protects the liver from cirrhosis) as well as for dissolving gallstones.
- Tomato is a natural antiseptic therefore it can help protect against infectionNicotinic acid in tomatoes can help to reduce blood cholesterol, thus helps prevent heart diseases.
- Vitamin K in tomatoes helps to prevent hemorrhages.
- Tomato contain lycopene (the red pigment in tomato), this pigment is a powerful antioxidant that can also fight cancer cells.
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