The tomato is actually a fruit, but from a culinary standpoint, it is used as a vegetable. Because we use it as a vegetable, I will use the term “vegetable” in this writing.
Although the tomato originated in Mexico, it is now used in all countries and is one of the most versatile vegetables. Somewhere around the late 1400’s it was introduced in Europe. At first, it was thought to be poison and even evil because they belong to the nightshade family. There are many poisonous plants in the nightshade family, but so are many vegetable we eat, such as, potatoes, eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes.
The tomato is used raw in salads and sandwiches, made into sauces, soups, and salsas, chopped in casseroles and chili, grilled or fried, made into juice and even jelly. And, let’s not forget about ketchup.
TOMATO | HOW TO CHOOSE AND STORE
- Should be a nice, solid red color
- Choose a tomato that is free of all blemishes and soft spots. Even just a tine black dot could mean it has started to rot on the inside. Soft spots could mean it’s bruised or over-ripe.
- The tomato should be firm and weighty with juice. If your tomato is very light weight, it could mean it didn’t have time to ripen on the vine and will be less flavorful.
- The smell of a tomato should be sweet and fragrant. If it doesn’t have a nice tomato aroma, it didn’t have sufficient time to ripen on the vine.
Many tomatoes in your market are picked green and they ripen on the way to the store. Sometimes they are even sprayed with ethylene gas to ripen more quickly. It is best to buy tomatoes that say vine ripened or buy at a farmer’s market that sells locally grown items.
NEVER store tomatoes in the refrigerator. Putting them in the refrigerator will cause them to become mealy and they will lose their wonderful flavor.
They should be kept in a basket or colander lined with a paper towel to keep moisture out, yet have good air circulation. If you need them to ripen a bit more, you can place them on a window sill. Tomatoes should last a good week on your counter.
MOST POPULAR TOMATO TYPES AND USES
BEEFSTEAK – Perfect for slicing on sandwiches and in salads. Also good for cooking and preserving.
PLUM – Very meaty type and great for making a sauce, using in salads, grilling and the best for sundrying. Also, they preserve well.
CHERRY AND GRAPE – Small and great for just popping in your mouth and in tossed salads. Also good for grilling.
HEIRLOOM – These are found in many colors and unique shapes. Use sliced on sandwiches, in salads, and cook in casseroles. Great for grilling, too.
TOMATO | NUTRITIONAL VALUE
The list below is an approximate list and will depend on the size and type of your tomato. Also, there are other nutrients that are good for you but since 1 tomato has such a small amount of your daily requirement, I have shortened the list to include the most beneficial.
Approximate daily recommendations for 1 medium tomato:
- 40% Vitamin C
- 30% Vitamin A
- 18% Vitamin K
Lycopene is a phytochemical found in tomatoes and studies have shown that it benefits heart health greatly because it aids to regulate the fats in the blood stream. Therefore, it can help to lower your cholesterol and triglycerides. Lycopene is found in higher concentration when the tomato has been cooked. Especially in tomato paste, tomato juice, and ketchup…to name just a few.
So, eating tomatoes in it’s raw form and cooking the tomato both provide valuable nutrients. Also, because of the high antioxidant properties of the tomato, it is known to support bone health and studies have shown lycopene may be a cancer preventative.