When most people think tomatoes, they think Italian food, but it appears they were first cultivated in Mexico and it wasn’t until the 1500’s that Spanish brought tomato seeds back to Spain and introduced them to Europeans.
Tomatoes are botanically a fruit, but in the late 1800’s, the government classified them as a vegetable so they could be taxed under custom regulations. I guess the more things change, the more they stay same. There are over a thousand different varieties that vary in shape, size, and color. The beefsteak and beef master tomatoes are the largest-sized varieties where as Roma tomatoes are more of a medium size. Cherry and grape tomatoes are small and rounded and easy to just pop in your mouth for a snack.
It doesn’t matter the color or size when it comes to taste. Tomatoes have a slightly bitter and acidic taste that is complimented with a subtle sweetness. If you want to bring out the sweetness, all you have to do is cook them as the cooking process tempers the acid and bitter qualities.
Buying, Storing, Preparation
You should always choose tomatoes that have rich colors, are well shaped and have smooth skin without wrinkles, cracks, bruises or soft spots. Ripe tomatoes will yield to slight pressure and have a sweet smell.
Tomatoes should be stored at room temperature and out of direct sunlight. Depending on how ripe they were when you bought them, they can last up to a week. If they start to become overripe before you are ready to eat them, place them in the refrigerator in one of the warmer areas such as the butter compartment. Make sure to remove them 30 minutes prior to using so they can regain their maximum flavor and juiciness. If you find out that they are not ripe enough once you get them home, just place them in a paper bag with a banana or apple (these fruits emit ethylene gas which helps speed up ripening). And don’t worry if your green thumb produces more tomatoes than you can possible consume because whole tomatoes, chopped tomatoes and tomato sauce freeze great. There are many ways to freeze them, but placing in freezer bags works best for both storage and defrosting.
Once you are ready to use your tomatoes, you should wash them under cool running water and pat dry. If you need to seed a tomato, cut it in half horizontally and gently squeeze out the seeds and juice. Since tomatoes have a high acid content, it is best to avoid aluminum pots and pans when cooking as your dish might end up with a metallic taste. But it’s because of this acidity that they are a great addition to many dishes and an excellent base ingredient. Other ways to prepare tomatoes include slicing, dicing, peeling, stewing and roasting.
Tomatoes and Good Health
Tomatoes are high in vitamin A, C, calcium and potassium. In addition, they are one of the best sources of lycopene, a caroteniod proven to help prevent cancer. It is also what gives the tomato its red color. But cancer prevention is not the only reason to include a pomme d'amour or "love apple" into your daily diet. Research shows that they can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, support healthy bones, possibly reduce the risk of some neurological diseases and might even help prevent obesity. And we don’t want to forget to mention what they can do for your skin. You can use tomatoes to cleanse and tone your skin, shrink large pores, treat acne, get rid of oily skin, add shine to a dull complexion, condition your hair, act as an internal sunscreen and remedy sunburns.
Wondering how to enjoy tomatoes? Check out Real Bite Chicken with Roasted Tomato Salad where the roasted tomatoes take spinach and chicken to a whole new level.