Tomatoes

Published by Sarah Horrocks
Published on 31 October 2008

Round and juicy, reminiscent of summer and bright dishes. This essential ingredient of Italian cooking is one of the most popular vegetables - although it is in fact a fruit!


A summer fruit

The tomato is known a summer fruit so it’s not surprising that it originates from Central America, particularly in Mexico. It turned up in Italy in the 16th century and soon spread to the rest of Europe.

As it needs heat and sun to ripen and gain flavour, the tomato is in season from August to September, after the summer heat. Today it is cultivated in greenhouses almost all year long, but it’s difficult to find the richness of its original taste out of season. Tomato leaves and branches of tomatoes are toxic, so don't eat them or try and cultivate them!

Packed with in vitamins

Composed of 90% of water and low in calories (18 calories per 100g), tomatoes are healthy thanks to their abundance of minerals and vitamins: potassium, lycopene (an anti-ageing antioxidant pigment), Vitamins A, C and E.

To take advantage of all the benefits, enjoy tomatoes raw (for the vitamins) or cooked. Lycopene is much more present in cooked tomato than raw tomato, so there's no reason not to enjoy ratatouille and tomato sauce!

Choosing tomatoes

There’s no exact science, but if you buy tomatoes in season and ripe you shouldn't go far wrong. Very few fruits ripen after you pick them. A ripe tomato has soft flesh (but not too soft or it is over ripe). It should be smooth and unmarked. Make sure that tomatoes on the vine are well attached to the branches, which should be green and fresh. You can find yellow, green and orange tomatoes in addition to red ones.

Cherry tomatoes

Mini tomatoes are perfect to snack on. They can be red, yellow or orange and oval or pearl in shape. They can be caramelised in the oven and served with pasta as well as enjoyed raw.

Plum tomatoes

Elongated with pulpy flesh, these tomatoes are ideal to use for making sauce.

Green tomatoes

Very popular in the United States, green tomatoes can be used in fritters and jam.

Beef tomaoes

This ancient variety of large tomatoes with fine, seedless flesh is perfect for salads.

Keeping tomatoes

Tomatoes like heat, but not cold. Don't put them in the fridge: this makes them lose their flavour. Keep them at room temperature for 3 to 4 days.

Tips

- To peel a tomato (they peel naturally during cooking), make an incision in the shape of a cross, place the tomato in boiling water for 15 to 30 seconds then in iced water for a few seconds. The skin should fall off all by itself.

- Tomatoes contain sapoline, a bitter substance that many people cannot digest and is found mainly in the skin.

- Tomatoes taste especially good with raspberry and balsamic vinegar.

Take a look at our tomato recipes.

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